The Banquet Hall that occupies the rim around the first floor at the front of the Beehive, is a surprisingly good venue. Good acoustics, good view, ample room and a change from the standard cavern. We were there on Monday evening to celebrate, as the invitation said:
the success of the Tick 4 Kids broad network of advocates spotlighting child poverty and inequalities among children in Aotearoa New Zealand, creating the necessary momentum for change and collaboration for so many years across communities, iwi, business and government.
The Prime Minister, Minister for Children and Minister for Youth were hosts to about 150 of us from around New Zealand. Tick for Kids has been active for 15 years now and I have been fortunate to be a part of it but for me the evening had a wider significance. It was a celebration of the strength and unity of the children’s movement in New Zealand.
The movement has built up over time and for many years has included the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the major child advocacy NGOs, Plunket, Barnardos, UNICEF and Save the Children and other groups and individuals. It has been able to provide a united voice on behalf of children for general elections and for campaigns such as repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act. The movement is now active in all parts of society - academia, the professions, business, charities, unions and government all of which were represented at the Beehive function.
The occasion was a signal of the incoming government’s commitment to children and to engaging with the children’s movement in the development and implementation of policies to reduce poverty and inequality of opportunity among the country’s children and their families.
UNICEF New Zealand organised the evening and its CEO Viv Maidaborn was an effective MC. Cindy Kiro, former Children’s Commissioner and an elder of the children’s movement spoke of the long path we have followed in admitting to and then engaging with child poverty. Deborah Morris-Travers gave us a history of co-operation among child advocacy groups, through Every Child Counts and then Tick for Kids. A panel of young people gave their take on significant issues in their lives.
The Prime Minister addressed us, reaffirming her and her government’s commitment to children and in particular to reducing child poverty. Specifics included restoration of a child benefit and the extension of the Working for Families programme to include beneficiaries with children.
The evening ended with an hour or two of socialising. There was excitement in the room at the prospect of a whole-of-government commitment to children, of significant engagement with the children’s movement and of a dedicated Prime Minister up for the challenge.
Dr Ian Hassall is a paediatrician and child advocate. He is a former Deputy Medical Director of Plunket and was New Zealand’s first Children’s Commissioner.