In the third of Judge Andrew Becroft’s five addresses reflecting on his time as Children’s Commissioner, he examines five ways we can significantly improve wellbeing for children and young people in Aotearoa / New Zealand.
“We are fortunate”, the Commissioner says. “The Government has developed a visionary, comprehensive and world leading Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy. Our challenge is to see this strategy implemented and it’s vision turned into flesh.”
“While some of the changes that will necessary for this to happen will make demands of us, achieving them would make this country the best place in the world to be a child”, Commissioner Becroft says. “Some of these issues have been long standing. Others, such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, have found us during my tenure as Commissioner.”
“If we were to take the issues I raise to heart, and respond to them positively, our country would have some striking characteristics:
- “We will overcome child and family poverty. Consequently, children will have greater equity of opportunity. Māori, Pacific, and disabled children will have more chance to thrive as part of an inclusive, respectful national community. The challenge here is clear. We must grasp the nettle and invest in ensuring neither Aotearoa’s children nor their families experience material hardship.
- “We will have an education system that enables children to develop their fullest potential. This will mean our schools will be safe places for students. Our schools will demonstrate cultures that promote respect for all their students and their whānau, and have no place for bullying. They will be environments that encourage aspiration.
- “All children will have access to the support they need to enjoy mental wellbeing. Youth mental health and wellbeing is emerging as one of the great issues our time. Governments will be seen to take this need seriously. Their commitment will be demonstrated by their funding of effective and appropriate services, and ensuring access to them.
- “Children’s views and concerns will be sought out. They will be listened to, valued, and factored into decision-making.
- “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder will be recognised and children with learning needs will be not be classed as problems. Instead they will be cherished and welcomed for their diversity and the different perspectives they bring.
- “Racism will be named and acknowledged whenever it appears. And being named, we will be committed to eradicating it. Children and young people will be freed from carrying its debilitating weight.
“This could all sound like a pipe dream. But it is possible. The challenge to us is to turn that possibility into a reality. In doing so we will be keeping the promise we should be making to all children in Aotearoa / New Zealand: that genuine wellbeing is to be part of the life we enjoy together.”