January 06, 2022
Calls to retain Children’s Commissioner
New Zealand’s current Children’s Commissioner is supporting calls from Save the Children for the Government to retain her vital role.
Judge Frances Eivers of Ngāti Maniapoto and Waikato descent was a Judge in the District Court in Manukau, working extensively with mokopuna in the court system, before being appointed Children’s Commissioner late last year.
The Government is considering a new bill proposing major changes to the office including the removal of a named Children’s Commissioner.
Earlier this week, child rights organisation Save the Children launched a campaign to ‘Save the Children’s Commissioner’, asking for support from the public to sign an online petition.
The proposed Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill, currently before a select committee, removes the role of Children’s Commissioner with the authority to report to the Prime Minister on behalf of children.
Instead, a new Children and Young Person’s Commission will be run by a board of between three and six members.
Judge Eivers says the bill is a step in the right direction but it needs more consideration around the finer details particularly the advocacy role of a standalone Children’s Commissioner.
“The board model is good – it brings in people from the community, it’s more than just a commissioner thinking about things. There’s a real obligation under the bill to focus on te tiriti and to involve iwi, to involve community organisations and the like.
“One issue that we would like to put before the Government though, and we will be at the select committee and in our submissions, is that presently the bill says that half of the board members should have knowledge and expertise of tikanga Māori.
“We believe they should whakapapa Māori – there is, as we know, a big difference there so that’s an issue that we will raising.
“We also think that while the main investigative functions will go to the Ombudsman, we think that it would be good for the Children’s Commissioner and its office to retain that role, even to a small degree, and perhaps work in with the Ombudsman and independent Children’s Monitor so we can share that expertise.”
Save the Children’s Advocacy and Research Director Jacqui Southey says the Children’s Commissioner has been a champion for children’s rights and a powerful public voice for change on crucial issues, such as children in care and child poverty, for more than 30 years.
While the proposed bill will have an impact on children, tamariki and young people have not been consulted, says Ms Southey.
“It is vital that New Zealand tamariki themselves have the opportunity to have their say on the role of the Children’s Commissioner and Children and Young People’s Commission.
“The Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly accords children the right to voice on issues important to them and to have their voices taken into account. We are calling on the Government to consult with children before this Bill progresses any further.”
People wanting to sign the petition should go to: https://actnow.savethechildren.org.nz/childrens-commissioner/