3 May 2013 | SNAICC NEWS
Professor Cindy Kiro — New Zealand’s first female and only Maori to have held the post of Children’s Commissioner — will be among the international guests at SNAICC’s 5th National Conference in Cairns from 4 to June 2013.
The conference is expected to attract over 900 delegates and features a host of Australian and international experts on children’s issues. Applications for the conference — the biggest forum of its type in the southern hemisphere — close on 17 May.
Professor Kiro, who was national Children’s Commissioner from 2003 to 2009, will be a keynote speaker at the conference. She will also participate at a forum on Indigenous youth rights dealing with strategies for improving child protection outcomes.
“What I’ll be talking about is the need for more integrated health and social services as a step towards strengthening the protection of children’s rights,” Professor Kiro told SNAICC News.
“I will also be looking at the links between welfare, education, justice and housing, and how these must be addressed if we are serious about improving child protection outcomes.”
Professor Kiro says that disadvantaged Maori and Pacific Islander children will suffer in the future if the New Zealand government does not invest in their wellbeing now.
Professor Kiro is currently Head of the Faculty of Education at Victoria University in New Zealand.
During her five-year tenure as Children’s Commissioner, and in over 20 years working with community organisations, Professor Kiro has seen firsthand the major issues facing Maori and Pacific Islander children.
“In New Zealand, child poverty is a huge problem and unfortunately, Maori and Pasifika children suffer disproportionately from poverty and its effects,” Professor Kiro said.
“What we’re seeing now is a clustering of effects, where major social determinants contributing to their poorer health and educational outcomes are not being properly addressed.”
Professor Kiro claims that major health issues affecting New Zealand’s Indigenous population all have a social cause.
“We’re seeing lots of Maori children suffering disproportionately from respiratory illnesses. It’s been found that, in a lot of those cases, overcrowded living conditions were a significant contributing factor.”
In addition, a recent UNICEF report, Child Well-being in Rich Countries shows that up to a third of all households in New Zealand are affected by mould.
Professor Kiro asserts that services targeting Indigenous poverty must be culturally attuned in order to be effective.
“Crowded housing is such a huge issue because governments aren’t discerning the fact that its part of Maori and Pasifika culture for people to live with their extended family,” she says.
“What this means is that where there is poverty, unfortunately it is often a multi-generational poverty.”
As well as a lack of cultural appropriate-ness, Professor Kiro says that the UNICEF report highlighted the lack of adequate policy support for Maori children and their families, especially where their families are economically or socially disadvantaged.
“The biggest problem facing disadvantaged Maori and Pasifika children right now is a lack of adequate resources being committed by the government to crucial services and programs,” says Professor Kiro.
“Governments need to show leadership and foresight by investing in children now, and by having services focused on early intervention. If there is a failure to invest now, services wont be as preventative as they should be.”
For more information on the conference, contact Poppy Bervanakis at SNAICC on (03) 9489 8099.