Yesterday’s second reading of the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill has seen it progress largely unchanged, despite a chorus of voices calling for it to be overhauled, or at least delayed until we hear back from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse.
My view that the legislation is ill advised has not changed, and a proposed review at some future point is simply bolting the gate once the horse has gone. However it seems the direction has been set, that decisions have been arrived at.
I totally believe that everyone involved in developing this legislation is acting with a good heart, with mokopuna at the centre of their thoughts, yet I still feel that we have missed an opportunity. How can we turn around the lives of our most vulnerable mokopuna when it’s the Office of the Children’s Commissioner that has become the focus of change rather than Oranga Tamariki itself?
From here on in, until the legislation is passed, I intend to make sure that any of the changes in train do not impact what my people and I do every day to improve the lives of our mokopuna. Our children’s needs take precedence over adult’s concerns.
I will continue to do what every single Commissioner has done before me:
§ Advocate for mokopuna to live their best lives, supported by their families and communities, they are an investment in the future and an underappreciated treasure.
§ Fight for children’s rights as a ‘must do’ rather than a ‘nice to have’. If children are not respected as those that should be heard, how will any of us be treated with the same respect?
§ Those rights include enough food, good food. Warm homes. Appropriate education. Inclusive education. The right not to be afraid in your own home. The right to get help when life is overwhelming. The right to get the medical attention you require.
§ Champion the right of every child to be safe, loved, and given the help they need when the State needs to get involved, particularly if they are put in a residence.
§ Call out any outcome that detracts from the core need to make sure our mokopuna thrive.
I had hoped to contribute to making this legislation a powerful agent for change, but I fear that opportunity is now behind us, so I will renew my focus on my core role, the one I am mandated to hold, and look forward to hearing concrete details of what the planned future Commission will look like once that work is complete.
Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua. I walk backwards into the future with my eyes firmly fixed on the past.