April 13, 2011
Law change will have little impact on child abuse
The New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation (NZNO) acknowledges the Government’s concern about child abuse, with its proposed
legislation creating a new offence for failing to protect a child or vulnerable adult. But NZNO believes the
Government’s proposals are an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach and will do little to address the root
causes of child abuse.
The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2), fast tracked into Parliament yesterday (April 12), will make it an offence to not
protect a child or vulnerable adult from the risk of death, grievous bodily harm or sexual assault, with a maximum
penalty of 10 years imprisonment. A person can be found liable if they live in the same household as the victim, are
closely connected to the household or is a staff member at a hospital, institution of residence where the victim lives.
“This proposed legislation will have little impact on New Zealand’s appalling child abuse statistics, as it does not
address the root causes of abuse. The factors contributing to abuse are complex and multi-faceted. Until the Government
has the courage to address issues such as child poverty, the violence caused by alcohol abuse, the widening gap between
rich and poor in this country, and the growing number of people who feel excluded or alienated from participating in our
society, then little will change for our most vulnerable citizens,” NZNO chief executive Geoff Annals said.
“Fast-tracked, punitive legislation in response to extreme cases is not the answer. There are no quick-fixes. Solutions
will only be found in a comprehensive policy approaches that address the health, education, employment and social
factors contributing to abuse,” he said.
“Nurses, in their practice every day, deal with the effects of health and social inequities on children and adults.
Because of their knowledge and experience, nurses are very well placed to contribute to policy development aimed at
reducing these inequities,” Annals said.