Do you feel personally ashamed for NZ’s child murder rate?


A Stuff special investigation has collated the details of nearly all children, under 14 years of age, that were killed as a result of neglect, abuse, or maltreatment in New Zealand since 1992.

…The panel overseeing the CYF business case is made up of civil servants and experts, both domestically and internationally, who will not waste any time picking apart the numerous flaws in the department’s system.

It’s expected that the kinds of changes proposed will require millions of dollars, likely needing to be stumped up over multiple budgets.

We need to spend this money.

But the dysfunctionality of CYF is only part of the equation.

Reforms have centred on what the social development sector and justice are doing, but too little consideration is given to the role the health sector can play.

Starship Hospital paediatrician Dr Patrick Kelly makes a sage point that the numbers of children “being thrown in the river” are no fewer than 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health acknowledges there’s merit in his proposal to have a dedicated child protection team at every DHB, but there is “not the capacity”.

Tolley fronted for this series to talk on the work she is leading. The same can’t be said for Justice Minister Amy Adams.

There was no Government voice willing to talk about the work being carried out in the justice sector, which is significant.

For reasons unfathomable, Adams refused to confirm time for an interview after more than a fortnight of trying to pin her down. She said she was too busy.

Questions were emailed to her office weeks in advance, but the one interview slot she did offer, was at such short notice it was unable to be organised.

That’s not good enough.

This is something that we should never stop talking about, and that is probably one of the most valuable things New Zealand as a country can do.

Because let’s be clear, the Government has the power to change a great many things, but this is a family problem.

Attitudes need to change within families; parents need to stop abusing their children, bystanders need to become involved when they see something.

And those two groups of people should never be able to turn their heads away from commentary and judgement on the issue.

Violent family situations can happen in a range of households, but this is as much a class issue as anything else.

We know ingrained poverty, low levels of education, unemployment and abusive childhoods of their own are all factors in many cases of adult violence toward children.

The Government can fund additional social workers, increase benefits and tighten home security all it wants; this would address some of the symptoms, but none of it cures the disease.

Perhaps the Government’s actuarial approach will make inroads here, if it leads to earlier intervention with better-directed resources and fewer costs over time.

That will only happen if the Government works assiduously to give it the significant levels of funding needed upfront.

One week before Christmas, about eight years ago, I gained three foster brothers. They were born into a gang family, and had had the worst possible start to life.

They knew violence, and had seen things no 3, 4 and 6-year-old should ever see – things that would slowly become apparent months, and even years later.

What got me though, is they had never heard of Santa.

I couldn’t imagine a house so devoid of love that a small child had never known christmas in any form, other than – we later discovered – a piss-up for the adults while the kids made themselves scarce, or else.

Thankfully they’ve had many happy Christmases since, and all three are thriving in school and all areas of life – a CYF success-story.

There are far too few.

Every single person in New Zealand should be individually ashamed that this country is one of the most dangerous in the developed world for children to grow up.

Perhaps we can all start by looking at the faces of the children who will never grow up, and know that before they died, they were tortured by someone those hopeful eyes looked upon as a guardian.


I guess we can be ashamed in a collective sense, like we are proud of the All Blacks without ever touching a rugby ball ourselves.   But just like we have zero influence over specific rugby games, the collective pride or shame we feel as a nation isn’t actually something we have control over.

The fact we continue to address the terrible rate of child murders in our country goes to the fact we do care.  We care very much.  But we have so far failed to make any impact.

While the UK looks good, Canada is worse than us.  And nothing offers an easy explanation when we compare these statistics between countries.   They happen, but they happen at a rate that is so low as to never touch most of us in our lifetime.  It’s something we read about or see in the media, but we have no direct involvement.

So to collectively feel guilt and shame is fine – but it won’t solve anything.  As we’ve seen over the decades of fluffing about trying to pick up the slippery soap from the shower floor.

Almost all of you will never be in a situation where you can save a child’s life, so how on earth can you be in a position to collectively prevent something that you have no influence over?

That doesn’t mean we stop trying.  And two of the harsher facts need to be faced:  That there is a minimum background murder rate that we will never master, and that there exists a human underclass that does not live in a community that will react to protect the child.   These things are hidden, and over before anyone who is external to these situations can observe and react.

More money.  It always takes more money.

Can money prevent people, family, parents, partners from killing a child?   Can money elevate human decency in those clearly devoid of it?

And yet again, will a Stuff “Special Investigation” and a blog post impact the future for the better?

But we must keep trying, all the same.


– Stacey Kirk, Stuff

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.