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Hutt homicide: New Govt needs to show leadership around child protection – Child Matters

The new Governmnt hasn’t even been formed yet, but New Zealand has already seen another needless and tragic death of a child – Ruthless-Empire Souljah Reign Rhind Shepard Wall.

In 2022, at least nine children died at the hands of those who were supposed to care for them.

“These tragic circumstances are a reminder to the future Government Ministers that New Zealand has some serious issues to address when it comes to child abuse and protecting our most vulnerable children,” says Child Matters CEO, Jane Searle.

Ms Searles says Child Matters has been working in the area of child abuse prevention for almost 30 years and little has changed.

“Since it began, Child Matters has seen five rebrands of Oranga Tamariki and its predecessors, eight Prime Ministers, more than 33 reviews and an extraordinary number of new plans or strategies.

“But the issue of children and young people being killed or harmed by those who are meant to be caring for them is still shameful.”

Ms Searle has a strong message for the incoming Ministers and their senior bureaucrats.

“No more name changes, no more reviews, deploy decisive leadership, just start with the basics and start now.

“First, get strong experienced leadership in Oranga Tamariki so that the organisation can rebuild a workforce that is skilled, resourced and supported to do their job and provide critical response when needed.

“Second, ensure early intervention. Resource community organisations say they are able to work alongside the likes of Oranga Tamariki or New Zealand Police from the start of a concern being identified. The time to offer support and protection for a vulnerable child is before they become harmed.

“Third, address the issue of training. New Zealand should follow other countries by implementing Mandatory Child Protection training for professionals who work with children and young people.

“Currently, this vital training is not mandatory. This is a basic protection that New Zealand is missing and there is no reason that it should not be implemented.

“The death of any child from abuse or neglect is not one event in isolation, it’s one of many that demonstrate the cracks in a failing child protection system – and every New Zealander should expect a response from those elected to lead our country.

“It’s concerning when the number of child abuse cases reported in the media pre-election outnumbered the number of parties who addressed what needs to be done to put a stop to it,” says Ms Searle.

“We need a plan – not a promise. There is no more room to budge with this. There is no more time. We can’t go another three years without change or where the protection of children is not a priority.”

“The community sector have the drive and willingness to work with the Government, so it is time to focus on the basics of getting the right people, with the right training, to work with our most vulnerable and at risk families.”

Child Matters exists for the ongoing delivery of child protection, providing a range of online and in-person courses throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.


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