NZ described as ‘land of inequality’
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.