Six Children’s Commissioners were welcomed to Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission in a pōwhiri at Waiwhetū Marae in Lower Hutt yesterday.
Marking an important milestone for children’s advocacy in Aotearoa New Zealand, the event formally acknowledged the new Commission established on July 1 while recognising the dedicated work of former Children’s Commissioners.
Guests included the whānau and friends of new Commissioners, Ministers and public servants, representatives from NGO and community organisations, and former and current kaimahi.
The mana of mokopuna was in action with the presence of Te Ara Whānui Kura Kaupapa Māori o ngā Kōhanga Reo o Te Awakairangi leading the pōwhiri.
Children’s Commissioner since 2021, Judge Frances Eivers is now Chief Children’s Commissioner and Chair of the board. She spoke of her vision for the new structure, and the importance of the name Mana Mokopuna.
Developed as a framework to monitor youth justice residences, it has extended to a lens for the way the Commission works, upholding the mana inherent in each child while seeing them in the context of their whānau and community.
“It isn’t just a name for us. The best life for all our mokopuna is to ensure that their whānau are embraced in a way that our mokopuna can be loved,” said Judge Eivers.
The Children and Young People’s Commission Board also includes Dr Claire Achmad, Donna Matahaere-Atariki, Dr Julie Wharewera-Mika, Josiah Tualamali’i and Ronelle Baker.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Social Development Hon Carmel Sepuloni spoke of her aspirations for the new Commission, while acknowledging the opposition to the change.
“We are welcoming a board of exceptional Commissioners, who share the same kaupapa as all of us here today. That being, we want Aotearoa to be the best place in the world to be a child.
“The changes we have made have not been without controversy. I accept and acknowledge why that is the case. I believe now that the system provides a strengthened structure.”
Minister for Youth Hon Willow-Jean Prime echoed the hopes for a strengthened advocacy system, and one that amplifies the voice of mokopuna.
“Our job is to ensure that we are creating those spaces for our tamariki to have a voice in the mahi that we are doing which is about them, us, and our futures. I am confident that will happen, through our wonderful Commissioners we have here and our collective goal.”
- The event was live-streamed on Facebook.
- Mana Mokopuna – the 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. It replaces the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, established in 1989.
About the board members
Judge Frances Eivers
Judge Eivers (Ngāti Maniapoto and Waikato) has served as the Children’s Commissioner since 2021 and now she is now Chair and Chief Children’s Commissioner. A dedicated youth advocate, she has served as a lawyer and mostly recently, a Judge in the District Court in Manukau, working extensively with mokopuna in the court system.
Dr Claire Achmad
Deputy Chair of the Commission is Dr Claire Achmad. A child rights advocate, Dr Achmad holds a PhD in international children’s rights law, and is currently the Chief Executive Officer of social service provider Te Pai Ora o Aotearoa. Dr Achmad has strong endorsement from the child rights sector as a Commission member. Dr Achmad is the Chair, Director and Trustee of ShelterBox New Zealand and Vice-Chairperson of Children’s Rights Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand. Dr Ahmad is of New Zealand/Indonesian descent.
Ms Matahaere-Atariki (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Ruanui, Te Atiawa, Ngā Rauru, Ngā Ruahine and Tuwharetoa) has a background in education, health and social services, and governance experience with the Gambling Commission, University of Otago, and Independent Children’s Monitor, of which she is the Chair. Ms Matahaere-Atariki has strong knowledge of child protection and hapū and hapori, and extensive relationships and networks with iwi, hapū, and community development organisations.
Dr Julie Wharewera-Mika
Dr Wharewera-Mika (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe and Te Whānau ā Apanui) has a background in clinical psychology and research across health and Kaupapa Māori, with experience of the mental health system and addictions, and strong stakeholder relationships within the children’s sector. Dr Wharewera-Mika has a PhD in clinical psychology, and is a long-standing business consultant, is head of the Foundation of Medical Assurance Society, was an establishment board member of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, and is Chair of Whānau Oranga Pūmau, ACC Māori Customer Advisory Panel.
Mr Tualamali’i provides a governance professional, Pacific, youth advocacy perspective through a range of health, leadership and young people’s networks. He was a panel member of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction which co-wrote He Ara Oranga (2018). His work as part of the Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation Trust led to his appointment on the advisory group for The Ministry of Education's Civics and Citizenship Education Teaching and Learning Guide (2020). He produced his first documentary with Director Benji Timu on the Polynesian Panther Party Legacy Trust - "How we made it to 50 years." He serves as co-chair of Pacific wellbeing organisation Le Va, and is also a director of Te Pou and trustee of Rātā Foundation. Mr Tualamali’i is of Samoan descent. The villages of his aiga are Salelesi, Satuiatua, Lepa, Aufaga and Fagaloa.
Mrs Baker (Ngāti Porou, Tāmanuhiri, Aitanga a Hauiti, Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Apakura and Ngāpuhi) has experience in Government, the health sector and NGO roles with personal fostering experience and lives with muscular dystrophy. Mrs Baker has strong community sector involvement, and is Chair and Director at Spectrum Care Ltd, and a member of Te Roopu Waiora. Mrs Baker has Bachelor and Post Graduate Diploma qualifications, and currently is a Principal Advisor Accessibility at Statistics New Zealand.
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