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Tariana Turia Speech On Section 59

Tariana Turia Speech On Section 59

Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Wednesday 21 February 2007; 5.30pm

 
If you went in to any kohanga throughout Aotearoa, chances are that you would hear a waiata being sung with huge gusto:
 

He taonga o taku ngakau

Ko taku mokopuna e

He mokopuna korikori

Hei aha hei aha ra

Ko te mea nui ko te aroha

Kaua koe e patu taku mokopuna

Hei awhiawhi mai

taku mokopuna korikori e.

 

A waiata which talks about our mokopuna as truly precious, as the treasures of our heart.  A waiata which reminds us all not to hit our children – and promotes the message of caring, of kindness, and of love.

 

It is a call which restores the traditional values of our ancestors as being values for action, values which ask us to consider the way in which we bring up our children as fundamental towards setting standards to live by.

 

There is such a rich archive of knowledge - moteatea, whakatauaki, karakia, waiata - which reinforce the special gifts required to cherish our children. 

 

They hold messages, like the kohanga song, which inspire us to be the best parents; to love our children and our mokopuna with all of our hearts.

 

And I am also aware there are other messages which are vigorously promoted as providing guidance with how to raise a child.

 

Over the last year, our office has been bombarded with correspondence from advocates opposing this Bill.  We have heard a common saying, which offers one interpretation of the Biblical phrase, ‘spare the rod, and spoil the child’.  The argument has been put that this phrase justifies the use of corporal or physical punishment.

 

From my understanding of Christian beliefs, the rod referred to was a shepherd’s crook.  It was used to guide; or to nurture a flock into the right path.  It was not a directive to pick up a cane and wallop the child.

 

In te Ao Maori, we have a similar concept as the shepherd’s rod – in the saying, He aroha whaea, he potiki piripono.  This is a message to us that essentially parents who care and nurture their children, will find that their children will stay longer with them.

 

If time is given to pass on values; to give guidance on responsibilities and obligations, then the children are less likely to deviate from these.  ‘As the twig is bent, so shall the tree grow’.

 

Maori history and literature provides ample guidance about the difference between discipline and the violence of assault against children.  The first extensive published ethnographic work by a Maori scholar,The Old Time Maori, by Makereti Papakura of Ngati Wahiao, Te Arawa, described the experiences that she had observed:

 

“The Maori never beat their children, but were always kind to them and this seemed to strengthen the bond of affection which remains among Maori throughout life”.

 

Indeed, there have been so many sources similarly describing the promotion of peace and care for children as a traditional value amongst tangata whenua, that Professor Dame Anne Salmond described pre-colonisation as a ‘golden age’ in her book, Two Worlds.

 

Tuhotoariki of Ngai Tara composed an oriori for his nephew, Tuteremoana, which is dedicated towards assisting the whanau to support that child in acquiring the vital life skills necessary to achieve their optimum potential.

 

Another source, Te Oriori mo Matareta, guides the child in the history and traditions of its people – demonstrating both women and men were the carers, and that children were entitled to security, to respect, and to protection.

 

By sharing some of these time-honoured stories and values, I do not want to suggest that everything is rosy in our homes today. 

  

The reality is, as this House well knows, New Zealand is suffering from a shameful record of epic proportions in the way in which we mis-treat our children.

 

Last week’s United Nations UNICEF report displayed our filthy washing for the world to see – that we have the highest rate of children dying from accident or injury in the 25 OECD countries studied.

 

Dr Gay Keating, Director of the Public Health Association summed it up with her call for a major rethink to show that we value our children.  And she said:

 

“The Health of our children is the responsibility of us all.  Investing in our children now, will reward us a thousand fold in the future.  If we ever needed a wake–up call, this report is it”.

 

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party is of the view that the decision to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act is exactly the type of investment we need to be making if we are committed to our children living in an environment free from violence.

 

What this Bill will do in effect, is to place parents in the same position as any person who uses forcible action against another adult – who, in other words, assaults them.

 

This Bill now removes the opportunity for assault against children to be recognized as ‘reasonable’ by defining the types of actions one may take to remedy a situation requiring discipline.

 

The Bill therefore sets out a range of approaches – pulling a child away from harm or from harming others; putting a child in a room for time out; defining what is an appropriate preventative measure.

Mr Speaker, I was raised firstly by my grandmother.  At no time did she ever raise her hand or her voice in taking care or of my cousins who were all loved, nurtured and cared for by her.  She lived kaupapa and tikanga; and I hope that that is how my children, and grand-children and great-grandchildren will remember me when I am gone.

As a mother, grandmother and proud great-grandmother, I know too well the challenge of child-rearing – and how easy it is, that even with the best intentions, your patience wears thin and the weapon at the end of your arms is too easy to apply.

I believe that when you smack a child, you send the message that it is ok to hit others if you think they are doing wrong.

 

As a general rule, I am not someone who smacks – but that is not to say I have not been sorely tempted over the years.  And wherever I go – whether it is to the supermarket, at the marae, in a shopping mall, down the street –I know how frequently smacking is used as the first resort.

 

And yet as the Littlies Lobby research would tell us, 97% of over 1300 parents of preschoolers who were surveyed did not believe physical discipline was highly effective. 

 

And so we are in a catch 22 situation – parents know smacking doesn’t work and yet it has become so commonplace that the repeal of section 59 was vehemently opposed  - and created a near record number of submissions to the select committee.

 

Mr Speaker, this Bill has raised many complex issues for parents and caregivers right around the country. 

 

We have certainly appreciated the insights of submitters who shared their frustrations around the apparent state interference in the autonomous rights of parents to care for their children.  We would be concerned too, if the new requirements had the impact of criminalizing parents, children being removed from their care, and the family becoming another statistic in the state welfare records.

 

Having heard Greg O’Connor from the Police Association this morning on radio, basically saying that the Police will prosecute people who break the law, causes me concern.  We must have an assurance from the Government that this will not happen.

The new section 59 will still beg interpretation – what, for instance, is understood by “performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting”?  As has already been suggested, monitoring of judicial decisions in child discipline cases will be necessary to ensure abusive behaviour is being actually being recognised and stopped.

 

So what we've had to weigh up are the concerns of parents and our kaupapa.  And we believe it is critical that a line in the sand be drawn, that the time has come for a strong message of no hitting to be promoted in every possible way.

 

We must be bold to shift attitudes and behaviours in small ways.

 

It is because of our kaupapa that we therefore see the aspirational value of this Bill as being a Beacon of Pride for all whanau to hold, as they establish the pathway forward for their tamariki.

Ends

 

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