Government strengthens advocacy for all children with new Commission

The new Children and Young People’s Commission takes effect from today, ensuring the voices and rights of children and young people are heard, with greater and more diverse representation at the table.

“We want Aotearoa New Zealand to be the best place in the world to be a child. The new Children and Young People’s Commission delivers on that by ensuring children in state care are well served and cared for by the system,” Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said.

“The new Commission is one steppingstone towards ensuring history does not repeat itself, playing a lead role in advocating for children and young people,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“I welcome the start of the Commission and the leadership that will be provided by its newly appointed Board, who have the flexibility, diversity and mana to genuinely speak for our children and young people,” Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment Priyanca Radhakrishnan said.

"Current Children’s Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers has been appointed as Chair and Chief Commissioner until 31 October 2023. Judge Eivers will help provide a smooth transition to the new commission before her planned return to the judiciary.

“I would like to thank Judge Eivers for her dedication and commitment to the kaupapa, advocating for children and young people.

“I’m pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Claire Achmad who will assume the position of Chair and Chief Commissioner from 31 October 2023, and will hold the role of Deputy Chair until then.

“Dr Achmad’s experience extends through a PhD in international children’s law, Chief Executive of Te Pai Ora o Aotearoa, and has been given strong endorsement by the child rights sector,” Priyanca Radhakrishnan said.

Reviews over a number of years showed the performance of the care system was not achieving the outcomes for children, young people and families that New Zealanders expect.

“Independent oversight is important because it gives the families of those in state care and the New Zealand public the confidence that those providing care and support to children and young people are working appropriately to keep them safe and make their lives better,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“Our children and young people continue to face complex and wide-ranging challenges spanning across education, health, care and protection, and the justice system. The move to a Board will provide more effective, representative, and meaningful advocacy reflective of children, young people and their whānau, hapū and iwi, and communities.

“Engagement has been robust and strongly contested, but many people’s feedback and submissions have gone on to inform the changes that we’re seeing today.

“These changes reflect our Government’s genuine commitment to putting the wellbeing of children at the very heart of everything we do. In addition to strengthening the advocacy for all children, we’ve continued to lift children out of poverty, raised incomes, reduced cost pressures on New Zealand families and introduced healthy, free lunches in schools.

“It takes a whole-of-government and cross-sector collaborative approach to making Aotearoa New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child. As I’ve said before though, there’s always more to do and we’re laser focused on doing it,” Carmel Sepuloni said. 

The Board of the Children and Young People’s Commission will consist of a Chair, who will be a full-time Chief Children’s Commissioner, and up-to five part-time Board members, also known as Commissioners.

The Children and Young People’s Commission Board also includes Donna Matahaere-Atariki, Dr Julie Wharewera-Mika, Josiah Tualamali’I, and Ronelle Baker. Ms Matahaere-Atariki will succeed Dr Clare Achmad as Deputy Chair when she vacates the position on 31 October.