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New Zealand must become a nation of 3 million caregivers

22 December 2011

New Zealand must become a nation of 3 million caregivers – says Norm Hewitt

With the media once again full of child abuse, New Zealanders must realise we all have a responsibility to look after our children, said the former All Black-turned-children’s-champion, Norm Hewitt.

“Yesterday the mother of a nine year old Auckland girl was sentenced for abuse that’s been described as ‘torture’. Last week a woman who was supposed to be caring for little one-year-old Popo was charged with his murder. That same day, a man appeared charged with murdering two-year old JJ Lawrence, the son of a woman believed to have been his girlfriend. And earlier this month, another man was found guilty of murdering tiny Cezar Taylor – also the son of his girlfriend,” he says.

“It’s too easy for a community to say child abuse is the fault of someone else – of Child Youth and Family, or of health professionals who should have spotted the abuse. Helping vulnerable children is up to all of us.

“There are only 1000 social workers and 11,000 or so health professionals, but as a nation we are close to three million adults. That’s three million pairs of eyes and ears that will see and hear what’s going on, and three million pairs of hands that could help. While many of us feel powerless when we hear of another child who has been mistreated, there is one easy thing we can do to help – say something on the Government’s Green Paper for Vulnerable Children,” Norm said.

The Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett, released the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children in July, calling for submissions until 28 February 2012.

Norm Hewitt, South Auckland lawyer Sandra Alofivae and Barnardos chief executive Murray Edridge are the Green Paper’s champions. They have been holding meetings around New Zealand, getting people talking about the Green Paper. The Green Paper asks a series of challenging questions designed to get New Zealanders thinking about how vulnerable children’s lives could be improved. The submissions will be used to help develop a children’s action plan (White Paper), aimed for release mid-2012.

“Far too many children are at risk in this country, and far too many adults aren’t taking responsibility. We can help change the end of the story for vulnerable children like James Whakaruru, Nia Glassie, Serenity Jay Scott, Chris and Cru Kahui, little Cezar Taylor, and so many more. You don’t need to have all the answers; all you need is an opinion. We don’t just want to hear from adults – children’s ideas are welcome too – after all, they are the ones who live with the decisions us adults make,” Norm said.

“It’s Christmas time, which is an opportunity for us to look back on the year past, and the one coming up. It’s also a time we traditionally think about others less fortunate. On average each year 10 Kiwi children don’t get to see Christmas because someone in their family mistreated them so badly they died. Let’s become a nation of three million caregivers and do our bit to make Christmas 2012 much better for our vulnerable children.”

For more information about the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children, and to make an online submission, go to www.saysomething.org.nz. Submissions can also be made via Facebook, Twitter, email, freepost submission flyer or a letter. Submissions close on 28 February 2012.


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