Iwi leaders first sign a covenant to protect children

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On 5 August 2016, Iwi leaders were the first to sign a covenant promising to protect Aotearoa New Zealand's children, at an Iwi Leaders Forum at Hopuhopu.

The covenant, or kawenata, was written by Judge Carolyn Henwood, former Youth Court judge who recently headed a confidential listening and advice service for people who were abused in state care.

A Covenant for our Nation's Children - He Ōati mō ngā Taitamariki ō tō tātou Whenua is written in te reo Māori and English. The kawenata commits people to doing all in their power for children to be treasured, respected and enjoy a good life full of opportunity. The one-page document commits to protecting children from violence, abuse, neglect, to provide a proper standard of living and to preserve and respect their sense of identity. It also promises to support their emotional and mental wellbeing, provide education and take children's views into account. Its vision is that every child will be "valued and have a sense of place, a place to stand and know their place."

Judge Henwood said, "I started finding out the care and protection of children was feeding people into the jails and so, therefore, I realised we needed something right at the beginning to inspire us on a different course. So I thought a national statement would be the way to go to put it right up there by the Treaty, right up there by the Bill of Rights, for all of us as New Zealanders."

The kawenata was tabled to Prime Minister John Key, Minster of Social Development Anne Tolley and Minister of Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson earlier this year.

Minister Tolley has said she has agreed to look at ways to incorporate the covenant into the proposed reforms to Child, Youth and Family.

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft supports the kawenata and has said it provides Aotearoa New Zealand context to the United Nations United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) signed by the government.

Various political parties have also come out in support of the covenant.

Media

Iwi leaders sign covenant to protect NZ children, Māori TV, 05.08.2016

Iwi sign vow of respect for 'nation's kids', NZ Herald, 05.08.2016

Iwi Leaders first to sign NZ covenant for children, Radio NZ, 05.08.2016