INDEPENDENT NEWS

Child Abuse Raises Questions

Published: Fri 28 Jul 2000 01:27 PM
MEDIACOM-RELEASE-FAMILY-LAW-SECTION-NZLS
CHILD ABUSE RAISES QUESTIONS
The appalling abuse inflicted on the Wairarapa toddler Hine Karaitiana-Matiahi highlights uncomfortable questions about the sort of society New Zealanders want, says John Priestley QC, Chair of the Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society.
"Whilst the Police investigation is continuing and possible criminal charges are pending, it would be wrong to comment on the circumstances surrounding Hine's tragic death and her family situation. However, New Zealanders do need to address why children are being abused like this and what steps need to be taken to prevent further such tragedies," he said today (Thursday 27 July).
"As family lawyers we have to deal on a daily basis with children who are the victims of abuse and neglect. The Family Court increasingly has to use lawyers to present investigative reports, particularly where there are allegations of family violence, because of delays in obtaining reports from qualified social workers.
"Every professional dealing with abused children is outraged at the inadequacy of resources in this area," he said. "It is not just a case of more ambulances at the foot of the cliff. At the heart of the problem lies individual responsibility and what society is prepared to tolerate. Throwing money at social problems will not change social attitudes. Problems caused by dysfunctional families may take three or four generations to redress.
"All too often children are being raised by unsupported and inexperienced teenage parents, living in households which have become desensitised by violent and pornographic videos, and under the care of people with limited or no parenting skills who are alcohol and drug abusers.
"Small wonder that such children enter the school system at a huge disadvantage and often, as children, embark on criminal offending for which there is no effective punishment," Dr Priestley said.
"The philosophy of the Children Young Persons & Their Families Act 1989 is to keep children with their family or whanau wherever possible. In an increasing number of cases, however, family lawyers see the family or whanau as the cause of a child's plight rather than the cure.
"The Family Law Section strongly believes that raising children is the most important job any adult can undertake, which is why we are a committed lobby group for families and children.
"Tragedies such as Hine's death may pass unnoticed in some countries," Dr Priestley said. "The only positive comment on this tragedy is that at least New Zealanders are still capable of expressing outrage and concern.
"The real challenge is to learn from the tragedy and work to bring about a society which makes raising children in a safe and nurturing environment a priority. Otherwise tragedies like this will recur with frightening regularity," he said.
MEDIA RELEASE FROM THE FAMILY LAW SECTION OF THE NEW ZEALAND LAW
SOCIETY
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