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Children’s Commissioner in Bay discusses "national disgrace"

1 February 2012

Children’s Commissioner in Bay discussing “our national disgrace”

Leaders of organisations working with youth in Hawke’s Bay will meet next week with Children’s Commissioner, Dr Russell Wills at a breakfast event to discuss ways in which New Zealand’s “national disgrace” – the appalling record of child abuse, neglect and poverty - can be addressed.

At the YMCA hosted breakfast, Dr Wills will present his response to the government’s Green Paper on Vulnerable Children, released in July. The Green Paper presents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to have their say on what we would like Government to do to better protect vulnerable children and ensure their needs are met.

The Children’s Commissioner advocates for the rights, welfare, health and wellbeing of all children in New Zealand aged from 0 to 18 years, and promotes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Dr Wills says the Green Paper is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to ensure government policy reflects our values and makes the biggest possible difference for vulnerable children.

“There is now a clear consensus among academics, practitioners and politicians from all parties that health, education and social outcomes for children in New Zealand are worse than they should be and we need to invest more in our children.

“It is clear that younger children are the most vulnerable and investment in younger children offers the greatest ‘return’. The solution requires several things to happen at once, across several different services in a coordinated way, but the systems and structures that are in place make this difficult. It’s complex and will require different thinking,” says Dr Wills.

Public input into the Green Paper is encouraged and Dr Wills is keen for all attendees at the breakfast to make a submission.

YMCA Board President Eileen von Dadelszen is thrilled the Commissioner will address the gathering. “We are incredibly fortunate to have Dr Wills as a guest speaker. Child abuse and neglect are possibly the most important issues we as youth workers and as communities need to address. Our children are our future and our most valuable resource and it’s imperative we have these conversations,” she says.

The breakfast will be held on Friday 10 February at the Havelock North Community Centre from 7am to 9am.

Tickets are $25 (incl GST) and are available from YMCA Hastings, 720 Pakowhai Road.

Background Information On Dr Russell Wills FRACP, MPH, Paediatrician, HBDHB, Commissioner for Children

Russell Wills is a community and general paediatrician at Hawke’s Bay District Health Board in Hastings.

He attended Lindisfarne College in Hastings, trained at the University of Otago Medical School in Dunedin and Christchurch and was a house surgeon in Napier from 1998-99.

Dr Wills began his paediatric training as a senior house officer in Winchester and Southampton in England in 1990-92. Registrar training was in Newcastle between 1993-1996. He completed his subspecialty training in community paediatrics and Master of Public Health degree in Brisbane in 1997 and 1998.

From 1999 to mid 2001, Dr Wills held the position of National Paediatrician for Plunket, was a senior lecturer at the Wellington School of Medicine and a Community Paediatrician at Wellington Hospital.

He has been a general and community paediatrician at Hawke’s Bay Hospital in Hastings since August 2001, recently as Head of Department and Clinical Director until taking up the current appointment.

Dr Wills’ clinical interests are general paediatrics, child protection and children with severe behaviour disturbance. He has cared for many children with autism, ADHD, foetal alcohol effects, and the behavioural and developmental effects of abuse and neglect. His referrals come from general practitioners, Child, Youth and Family, Special Schools, Special Education, Resource Teachers Learning and Behaviour and non-governmental health and social services.

Dr Wills has led the Family Violence Intervention Programme, Before-School Check Programme, and Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee for HBDHB. He has been involved in the Ministry of Education Positive Behaviour for Learning Programme implementation, Incredible Years strategic group and Youth to Men governance group in Hawke’s Bay and has co-authored papers on drug allergy in cystic fibrosis, detection of family violence and the Before-School Check.

He has held leadership roles in community paediatrics with the Paediatric Society of New Zealand and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and has contributed to national guidelines and projects on autism, family violence, child abuse and medical aspects of children in Child, Youth and Family care.

Dr Wills began will begin his tenure as Commissioner for Children in June and he will remain a paediatrician at HBDHB half-time and Commissioner half-time. He lives in Hawke’s Bay and is married with two adolescent sons.


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