By Tariana Turia
The White Paper on Vulnerable Children was released today and it was big news. When a child is hurt, injured or worse – killed by violent acts - our hearts ache; as they should.
We all want answers, we all look for solutions and, ultimately, we all yearn to do something about it.
The White Paper was eagerly anticipated as a key piece in the puzzle that would move us towards action on this issue. The question that we all have now is - did it deliver?
Our answer is: Partly.
What the White Paper has succeeded in doing is placing the issue of child abuse on the political agenda. It has forced the government to recognise the multitude of issues that result in family violence, and to come up with ideas on how we work across agencies to protect the lives of our children.
This is an admirable goal, and in many ways it has been a long time coming.
Dealing with the issue of violence against children has been a long slog. While we welcome the underpinning philosophy that every child is a taonga, we do believe that you cannot have vulnerable children without also having vulnerable whanau, and so a wider approach is needed.
We must take action on many fronts. The Government can only do so much. Recognising the issues, committing to working across agencies and setting targets are a good start, but we must also work towards empowering our whanau in order to build resilience and wellness in the homes.
This is where Whanau Ora fits in. It is an approach which focuses on strengthening families from within. It also recognises the link between the many issues which impact on our health and wellbeing. Housing, education, employment, social and cultural safety are just some of the areas which impact on the ability of a whanau to succeed and flourish in today’s world.
We must continue to work towards strengthening our whanau. The aim here is about building resilience and also nurturing the positive practices that will make a difference to the lives of our tamariki, mokopuna and next generations.
We also believe that strengthening communities is a vital component of protecting our tamariki.
There is an old saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. And if we could practice this by providing support or manaakitanga within our whanau, and within our communities we could possibly make a huge contribution to the wellbeing of our children in the future.
The point is that while the State can do much to relieve the pressures on our whanau, it is going to take a wider effort to really address the issue of violence against our children.
The White Paper is a good start. But we need to start thinking about how each of us can contribute to protecting the wellbeing of our tamariki.
We need to believe that we can do something to make a difference. And from that starting point, and with each of us doing our bit, we can make a significant change so that our next generation grow up safe, protected, and with an even brighter future.
Tariana Turia is Co-Leader of the Maori Party