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MP's Asked To Put Children First

MEDIA RELEASE

18 December 2002

Wellington

MP's asked to put politics aside and put children first

A cross-party Parliamentary Children's Caucus was called for in Wellington today (subs: Wednesday 18 December 2002) at a 200-strong gathering of Members of Parliament and representatives of organisations working with children, who were asked to join the newly-formed Littlies Lobby.

Plunket's New Zealand President, Mrs Pam Murray asked Members of Parliament to put aside their political differences and come together to establish a cross-party Parliamentary Children's Caucus.

"There is no doubt that policy-making around children could benefit from a more coordinated and less political approach. Such a Caucus exists in the House of Commons in England and New Zealand children also need and deserve this level of attention and recognition.

"Children need to be put first at all times and not just at Christmas," said Mrs Murray.

She said the Children's Caucus would probably meet quarterly and be briefed on current issues by specialists on children's rights and needs and would also provide the opportunity for policy initiatives and legislation impacting on children to be discussed.

The Littlies Lobby also announced at Parliament today, is the brainchild of the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society and the Office of the Commissioner for Children.


The lobby aims to draw attention to what parents, families, communities and central and local government can and should do to give children the chance to thrive. It will also ensure that children are ready to start school by the time they are five years old.

Commissioner for Children, Roger McClay, implored adults to consider the lobby's six key messages and the implications of all they did when making decisions on behalf of children.

"The minute a baby is born, it has an absolute right to be cared for, to be loved, to be respected and to have food, clothing and shelter. It also has a right for its little brain to grow, develop and learn.

"We intend to speak-out on behalf of the littlies and to articulate what they themselves would want to say if they were able. It's just as important for their voice to be heard as it is for us to hear the voices of industry, commerce, trade unions or environmentalists.

"There are many organisations, agencies and individuals doing wonderful work on behalf of children. We invite them to join us in the Littlies Lobby and help remind New Zealanders of the rights and needs of the youngest in our society," Roger McClay said.

Plunket's Chief Executive, Mr Paul Baigent, describes the lead-up to Christmas as a highly appropriate time to be launching the lobby.

"Christmas is a time for celebration when children are most in our minds; a time when we do put children first. Our aim is to ensure they still come first when the Christmas decorations have been taken down," he said.

"There's a large body of evidence from across the world pointing to the crucial role of the first few years in determining whether we reach our full potential as individuals. A child's early experiences, parenting and environment have a huge impact on their physical, emotional and intellectual development.

"We also know that it's getting harder for parents to provide children with the care and attention they need. Work pressures, changes in family structures and the pressures placed on families by poverty are all impacting on our children. It really is time to ask ourselves as a country, are we doing the best we can for them?" Mr Baigent added.

Television host and mum, Maggie Barry and Norm Hewitt, Ambassador/Representative for the Office of the Commissioner for Children, joined Mr McClay, Mr Baigent and Mrs Murray in launching the Littlies Lobby.

The lobby's theme song "Ray of Hope", composed and performed on CD and music video by Neil Finn, was played at the event and the lobby's website was demonstrated.

Regional launches for the Littlies Lobby will take place in Christchurch later today and in Dunedin on Thursday 19 December.

Ends
Released by Joanne Ruscoe, Ruscoe Public Relations
email: Joanne@rpr.co.nz


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