Child Abuse/Domestic Violence in New Zealand 7th Highest in OECD Countries

By Robert W. Walker, J.P. (NSW) B.A. (Sydney)
New Zealand, sadly, has no Mandatory Reporting in Cases of Child Abuse legislation. All Australian states (except, we believe, Western Australia?) have long standing legislation requiring doctors, teachers, social workers and others to report cases of suspected or known child abuse. Many New Zealand professionals, encountering suspected or real child abuse, are left in a dichotomous quandary as to whether or not to report suspected or real child abuse and thereafter wonder about the risk to themselves or their careers if they do report such cases.

Some professionals have been directed by employers to say nothing when observing, say, an infant whose body is covered with cigarette burns or who has obviously been neglected and starved, battered and bruised by a psychologically depressed mother or the boyfriend angry because the kid ties them down too much or because the sick or neglected baby just keeps crying a lot. Poverty, alcohol and drugs seem to be frequent, but NOT exclusively, issues in child abuse..

The professionals are directed by supervisors or employers to keep their mouths shut just to keep the peace and not draw attention to their organisation in case it prejudices their credibility for continued funding or because it could attract litigation for defamation. New Zealand presently offers NO protection to either the child or the professional. There IS a personal risk to the professional to report the incidents they encounter almost daily or weekly in New Zealand.

Workers in medicine, child welfare or education do have to fear the possibility of a gang patched and vengeful 120 kilo person arriving at the professional’s home doorstep with his mates and a baseball bat for “dobbing” them in.. An exaggeration perhaps it might be, but the threat of possible repercussions through the professional’s employment, legally, or to them personally, is real.

Sadly, legislation for Mandatory Reporting in Child Abuse Cases is not adequately or immediately able to protect the lawyer, doctor, teacher or social worker (etc) from any revengeful physical threats. It can though, as does for example, the Australian New South Wales (NSW) Children and Young Persons Care and Protection Act (1998?), protect them from repercussions to their employment and from tort law or malicious litigation. This litigation could be brought by the child’s carer/parents claiming defamation on the part of the professional and their legislated reporting obligations. The Mandatory Reporting Acts do NOT protect from litigation or prosecution any whistle-blowers or reporting persons where their report is found to be of malicious intention.

In addition the NSW Act, as does other States’ legislation, also protects the professionals from disciplinary action from their professional or statutory body by alleging unprofessional conduct. Such breaches of professional discipline, can be breaches of their Ethics Codes such as, for example, breach of confidentiality, discrimination or privacy of the client/patient relationship (etc).

Sadly the situation in New Zealand is definitely not promising for the child in remedying their plight. This is, at least within the NZ Social Work professional bodies, which have taken the view that they do NOT support Mandatory Reporting in Child Abuse Cases claiming that it might prevent abuse perpetrators from seeking medical help and support for their neglected, battered or abused child. The Social Workers in New Zealand have that concern in case the perpetrators fear they will be be reported to the law and police. Quite an understandable point of view but not one which has been the experience of the Australian States.

Three years ago, the writer had an interview, at their offices, with the CEO of one of the NZ Social Work professional bodies. They were claiming that the legislation for Mandatory Reporting in Child Abuse was probably unnecessary based on the premise that the next door neighbours or other parties would always report any incidents of suspected child abuse. There is a very famous psychology research project that, in recent years, investigated the actions taken by twelve street witnesses to a brutal murder in the USA. out of the twelve actual witnesses, only one came forward to report their eye witnessing to the murder….. Most people just preferred to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil and walked on by trying to stay out of any possible trouble or repercussions.

The social work organisations also made the assumption that there would always be neighbours/teachers/professionals in the area in New Zealand who could, or even would, witness or report incidents of child abuse. This assumes that everybody had the training or insights to recognise incidents. As above, there is a risk to reporting on your neighbours especially if there is the slightest personal doubt that child abuse has been happening.

Labour’s Leadership Hustings.

Reality is only for those that cannot handle their Parties’ Political Aspirations!

Some of the Labour Party faithful have been attending the leadership candidates’ hustings in the major New Zealand towns and cities where the leadership hopefuls endeavor to persuade the members that they are the next and best leader for their Party.

We went along to one such meeting and listened to Grant Robertson explaining his interests in becoming the Labour Party Leader.
It was a very friendly ad chatty meeting right enough and he fielded many questions from the floor. One member asked a question from left field about how he would negotiate homophobic discrimination from the unions’ rednecks and NZ voters. Internationally, as Prime Minister, he was asked what would he do in dealing with governments of other countries who have severe homophobic death penalties or don’t have a liberal attitude concerning homosexuals.

Grant’s answer was, perhaps, a little idealistic and seemed to want to explain away or even ignore those still very prevalent rednecks who feel uncomfortable about homosexuality in New Zealand and overseas. Grant seemed to feel that while he was comfortable with his sexuality so others should be as well. Whilst we heartily agree with Grant, that, regrettably, is not yet the real world situation. As an example, one wonders about if religious and church organisations in NZ and elsewhere would find themselves comfortable in being obliged to deal with a country or Prime Minister who is openly gay. Sincerely, we hope the world will change for you Grant!

By way of some constructive feedback, without a mean or destructive bone in our body, the timbre of his talks and answers to questions seemed to be, although well intentioned, high-flown, highly idealistic and inspirational in content. It might have been more helpful to his purpose to have directed the talk to policies and reality, more down to earth in naming specific policies and how he proposed to ensure he could action the legislative mechanics of them. For example, how he would implement legislation for less expensive Auckland real estate, capital gains Tax, Economics and economic policies. The voter need to know what’s in it for them rather than some inspirational aspirations.

The high flown content of his address and answers to questions was a little bit like an extract from an inspirational or philosophical text, such as, say, J. Krishnamurti, Kahlil Gibran and many similar writers. Such has been, in the past few years, typical of the Labour Party public media and policy agenda: much packing and padding but few chocolates in the box. The big end of town will need to feel at ease too; they need to know that their businesses and their markets are functional and protected, their capital investments WILL return a profit and it is safe, economically, to employ staff and buy capital equipment.

Grant, with the best and friendliest intentions. lose the philosophical and inspirational approach and keep it real. John Key, despite his glib and dismissive style with the media, does the keeping it real approach better. That, in our humble opinion, is why the Nat’s won… Did the Nats actually win or did Labour just lose???

David Cunliffe’s Leadership Withdrawal:

David Cunliffe’s Leadership withdrawal might help resolve some of the internal stress within the Labour Party’s Caucus. From the media and the number of mudslinging comments certain Labour MP’s have been making in the last few days, it seems clear that Team Building is not presently a major concern or priority. Without particularly blaming David, it does seem that the Party’s mullahs must try to restrain the leadership candidates and sundry MB’s from slinging very public mud through the media at each other.

David’s withdrawal, perhaps strategic (??) for the moment, might help the team building process start. He DOES seem to say what he thinks……..
For any of those MP’s slinging the mud at each other, there is a definite linear causality between their mud slinging and the difficulties they will experience in the present and long term future in their relationships with each other. And the voters….

In Psychotherapy groups, they use a special concept in teaching people to take the long term view of their behaviour and comparing that long term result with how they are behaving now; is the behavior now, constructive or destructive to relationships and goals? The short term description for that concept is called “Acting Congruently” in the here and now with what you want to achieve for yourself and your goals and relationships in the future…

The mudslinging is NOT a good look for them OR the Party! Not an encouragement to trust them as a possible PM or to attract positive votes for them.

Housing concerns: Nats handing over the State Houses

We are recently informed that the National Government has arranged with a religious organisation to take over the running and administration of NZ Government’s social housing just as they did in withdrawing problem gambling care and administration from a NGO and re-allocating it to that same religious organisation. The Government withdrew the major part of the problem gambling from the non-religious NZ Problem Gambling Assn, a NGO for problem gambling support. It was to be handed over to the same religious Church as Social Housing.

Again, this is classical neoliberal economics and philosophy in action where Government seeks to divest itself of its involvement in the lives and what it perceives as needless contacts with the citizens. Some of our schools and child education is also being given over to religious organisations as Charter Schools.

Is Creationism now to be on the required curriculum for those Church administered schools possibly excluding or downgrading the importance of, say, Evolutionary Theory and Science)?

This divestment is in accordance with the Nats’ Neoliberal agenda and theories, some early foundations of which date back to the early Greek times of Democrates. More recently, advocates for that approach were Adam Smith (1723-1790) and, in the mid nineteenth century UK, of John Mill, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) (John Stuart was his son), their contemporary and friend, Jeremy Bentham. Even more recently, another prominent protagonist of those theories was Austrian, Frederich Hayek (1899-1992). For more information about the economic and political philosophies of those people, you could Google or consult their Wikipedia listings.

The (Neo) Liberal political theory(capital ‘L’ Liberal), in effect, was to give people as much freedom as possible by withdrawing or minimizing Government involvement in the citizens’ lives and, thereafter, to just manage the money and economy.

Though, perhaps, with well meaning intentions Neo Liberalism has, historically, socially and economically, had some unfortunate side effects better described at greater length by other writers and academics in social welfare and economics writings on the topic. The National Party in handing formerly administered NZ Government agencies and resources over to churches and NGOs and selling State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s) is implementing that Liberalist political theory in activist action.

One incident with that same church organisation cited above that occurred recently to a New Zealand university Social Work student (straight, NOT gay) who was reportedly failed for their University drug and alcohol coursework internship/placement. The student was failed by that organisation and the University by adding defensively supportive allegations?) claims alleging that the student helped a gay man after being assigned that client and instructed by the Church Social Worker supervisor to help the client person.
Sounds incredible, doesn’t it, it is true that such discrimination does still occur in New Zealand and, variously, on religious, homophobic, ageist and physical disability grounds. One NZ sixty five year old Masters degree Social Work student, with hip and spine osteoarthritis but otherwise quite mobile with a walking cane, was told by a supervisor that they were not healthy enough to be training for Social Work. The student was assigned a special needs school placement that required the student to participate in sporting activities…….

One also hopes and wonders, in the NZ social housing schema, that, say, gay/lesbian couples and their children or those with disabilities, other religious beliefs will not receive any such unfortunate discrimination. Whether covert or overt, when it comes to the allocation and administration of that social housing by religious organisations or others charged with administering and allocating former NZ Government resources and agencies, they will be selected on the basis of their need only.

A letter to the international head office overseas of that Church enquiring about their official policy on helping homosexual people was not given the dignity of an acknowledgement of the enquiry directed to them. One suspects they they did not wish to disclose or discuss the existence (at that recent time, of course) of any such homophobic discrimination policy.
The authors of those post have some concerns, perhaps unfounded, that a born-again, card carrying and religious or homophobic zealot staffer, with their fundamentalist Christian or with other beliefs, might believe they must discriminate against those whom they perceive as homosexual, non-Christians or those whom might be, (currently newsworthy and is topical, Islam) as Moslems, Jewish or many other faiths. Any non NZ cultural mainstream faiths might be perceived as unsuitable tenants. Islam, for example, is a wonderful, caring, religion sharing MANY exactly similar historical and biblical beliefs as with Christian doctrine.

The point of all of the above (supportive outside source report documents are available) is there is a risk that organisations or their staffer zealots might want to obfuscate, or covertly prevent, access to the available social housing? Is discrimination by those whom they, or their religious organisation, perceives as not suitable on the above personal, religious, ethnicity or sexuality criteria likely to restrict entry as desirable and suitable tenants?

Labour’s internal leadership issues.

We’ve had an inside tip that the Labour Party are clamping down, internally, to close up shop on the hype  generated in the media by some Labour MP’s with aspirations of leadership of the Party.  Great, because there was a risk that the media and voters would remember it all comes the 2017 election and, thereby, project an image of an internally unstable Party. We believe the Labour Party , like some other political parties, do have some interesting policies to offer New Zealanders but Labour needed to ride through this period a little more unscathed than at present…

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This blog site will, it is intended, occasionally offer critical, topical and political comment but its special purposes are mostly educational and, perhaps, with a slightly academic bent. Some theoretical discussion on the various political parties in New Zealand (NZ) will also be presented from time to time. Particularly, we hope to allow the NZ voter an opportunity to look behind the scenes of those political parties and open the door to what political philosophies are really driving their policy making decisions  and (sometimes great but, ofttimes, not so bright!) ideas. Frequently, one cannot always be sure just what agenda is being engaged as they bring their ideas into the law, social welfare and social justice arenas.