NZ de­scribed as ‘land of in­equal­ity’

East and Bays Courier - - LOCALJOBS - SHANI WIL­LIAMS

New Zealand is ‘‘a land of in­equal­ity, dis­ad­van­tage and marginal­i­sa­tion’’, Chil­dren’s Com­mis­sioner says.

In a speech called ’’con­fes­sions of a child­hood stut­terer’’ Judge An­drew Be­croft said New Zealand was not a coun­try he wanted to be a part of due to the num­ber of dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren.

Be­croft pre­sented in front of more than 250 ed­u­ca­tors, re­searchers, pol­icy mak­ers, par­ents, and com­mu­nity and ser­vice groups at the Talk­ing Mat­ters Sum­mit at Eller­slie Events Cen­tre in Auck­land on Wed­nes­day.

The sum­mit is aimed at in­creas­ing the qual­ity and quan­tity of in­ter­ac­tion and talk with ba­bies and tod­dlers.

The ma­jor­ity of chil­dren with low oral lan­guage live in low-so­cio eco­nomic com­mu­ni­ties, Be­croft said.

Some chil­dren in Auck­land were start­ing school with the oral lan­guage nor­mally ex­pected of 3-year-olds, he said.

Th­ese chil­dren strug­gled to ex­press them­selves, form re­la­tion­ships, solve prob­lems and read or write, Be­croft said.

‘‘There are 1.2 mil­lion chil­dren un­der the age of 17 in New Zealand - 20 per cent of th­ese chil­dren do badly and 10 per cent do worse than the west­ern coun­tries that we com­pare our­selves to.’’

New Zealand was leav­ing too many chil­dren be­hind and ear­lier iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and

‘‘ Some chil­dren in Auck­land are start­ing school with the oral lan­guage nor­mally ex­pected of 3-year-olds’’

in­ter­ven­tion was needed, Be­croft said.

Be­croft said New Zealand needed to es­tab­lish a cross-party ac­cord to deal with child poverty.

‘‘To­day’s New Zealand is a land of in­equal­ity, dis­ad­van­tage and marginal­i­sa­tion – this is not the New Zealand I want to be a part of,’’ he said.

Be­croft has been the Chil­dren’s Com­mis­sioner since 2016 and be­fore that he was New Zealand’s Prin­ci­pal Youth Court Judge.

‘‘From what I saw in the Youth Court, all roads lead back to lan­guage de­vel­op­ment in the early years.’’

For ex­am­ple, chil­dren with com­mu­ni­ca­tion dis­or­ders rep­re­sented up to 7 per cent of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion but rep­re­sented up to 90 per cent of chil­dren in cus­tody.

Pre­sen­ta­tions at the sum­mit were also given by Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land bi-lit­er­acy lec­turer Rae Si’ilata, Brain­wave Trust’s Wendy Nel­son, Grow­ing Up in New Zealand di­rec­tor Su­san Mor­ton and Talk­ing Mat­ters project man­ager Emma Quigan.

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