The new Chief Children’s Commissioner is hopeful of achieving a “cross-party consensus” on issues affecting young people so we can stay focused on making Aotearoa a great place for tamariki to grow up.
Dr Claire Achmad was appointed last month to head up Mana Mokopuna – the Children and Young People’s Commission, formerly known as the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.
Following Achmad’s appointment, Mana Mokopuna launched a one-question online survey, which closed overnight, to ask the mokopuna of Aotearoa what matters most in their world.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Real Life on Sunday, Achmad said the survey would help guide the work of Mana Mokopuna over the next four years.
“It’ll just be one aspect that will help us set our strategic priorities, but it’s a very, very important one that will ground our work in the voices of children and young people.”
Mana Mokopuna is an independent Crown entity, which Achmad said maintains trust and confidence. It was also critical to ensuring the organisation’s kaupapa remained above party politics, she said.
“It’s my dream that in this country, over time, we get to a place where we have cross-party consensus across our Parliament when it comes to issues of children and their rights and wellbeing, because we know that these are enduring issues.”
“We know there are also inter-generational issues that we must be focusing on regardless of our relatively short political cycles of three years.”
Achmad said the majority of young people in Aotearoa New Zealand were doing really well – “they’re thriving, safe, loved, and they are well with their families and their whanau” – but a significant proportion weren’t meeting their full potential.
“If we look at our child poverty statistics, we still have 10 per cent of our child population experiencing material hardship – that’s going without six or more of the basic things we need to actually survive and thrive and develop in our lives.
“If we look at our Māori population, that number of mokopuna in material hardship, it jumps up to 18.8 per cent – and for our Pacific children, it’s even higher at 26 per cent. So all is not well when it comes to the state of our child population.”
Achmad said the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic had also been huge for kids, with education disrupted, low food security, and poor mental health and wellbeing all factors.
She was looking forward to playing a role in ensuring that despite the myriad challenges Kiwi children face, they are seen and treated as a taonga.
“I feel very, very fortunate to be in this particular role. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s also a real privilege.
“Children are a taonga – they are a treasure first and foremost of their family and their whanau, and if they’re Māori, of their hapu and their iwi. But I would really like us as a nation over time to see children and young people as the taonga that they collectively are.
“We should be taking collective steps so that we see them, we hear them and we treat them with respect, and consistently with their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
“We’ve got a long way to go on that, and I really am looking forward to playing my part in helping to shape that trajectory,” she said.
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