Chief Children’s Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers has delivered a powerful keynote address at a conference for Indigenous Australian child and family services hosted by SNAICC - National Voice for our Children in Darwin, Australia.
SNAICC’s annual conference this year focuses on the benefits of implementing a child-centered approach that recognises identity and belonging as a fundamental requirement for Indigenous children to thrive.
Judge Eivers’ keynote, Mana Mokopuna – Valuing the Voices of Children, was the opening address at the conference, which brings together 1600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, policymakers, researchers, government officials, non-government organisations and industry representatives to share their knowledge and experience.
“I can see so many similarities between the New Zealand and Australian child protection systems, and the reality is, many of these similarities and challenges stem from the two nations’ entrenched history of colonisation,” says Judge Eivers.
“Similar to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience in Australia, Māori face acute adversities in colonially (re)built societies that aim to assimilate their very existence. As a result of that, Māori face disparities across various social indicators compared to non-Māori.
“Indigenous children are often misunderstood, and mis-engaged by the state as they are looked at through a non-Indigenous lens. The result of that misunderstanding is, more often than not, placing children in places of detention.
“There must be a better way. And what that looks like is resourcing the family and communities, and reconnecting them back to their cultural practices and traditions. It’s also about making systemic changes of an infrastructural nature to ensure Indigenous views and perspectives are at the table to effect change in the work we do with and for our children and young people.
“This means addressing the several inequities that arise for children, young people and families as a result of intergenerational, historical and contemporary racism.”
Judge Eivers shared perspectives from the Aotearoa experience, and in particular how the Māori world view has shaped the work of Mana Mokopuna- the Children and Young People’s Commission.
“Mana Mokopuna is a framework that was established to guide the current child systems that are in place to ensure they are centering the child's worldviews when it comes to dealing with matters that relate to them.
“The Māori perspective always frames children’s wellbeing relating a child’s role, position and place in the world.
“It’s important to understand the world view of our Indigenous and First Nation peoples if we really want to make a difference as they are the ones most affected by the systems."
Judge Frances Eivers is the Chief Children’s Commissioner of New Zealand. Prior to this, she was a Judge in the District Court in Manukau, working extensively with mokopuna in the court system. She has worked as a lawyer in Auckland, Whakatāne, London and Tauranga. In New Zealand, she practised mainly in the Family, Youth and Criminal courts, including working as a lawyer for children and as a youth advocate.
Mana Mokopuna - Children and Young People's Commission is an independent advocate for all 1.2 million mokopuna aged under 18 in Aotearoa and care-experienced mokopuna aged up to 25. www.manamokopuna.org.nz
SNAICC was formally established in 1981 and is the national non-governmental peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, connected to family and culture. www.snaicc.org.au
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SNAICC – National Voice for our Children