Families Commissioners appointed

  • Steve Maharey
Social Development and Employment

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Acting Minister for Social Development and Employment Ruth Dyson today announced the appointments to the new Families Commission.

The Families Commission will be formally established on 1 July 2004 and will act as an advocate for the interests of families. It will encourage informed debate on issues affecting families. It will also commission research into family issues and comment on policies affecting families. Funding of $28.233m was provided in Budget 2003 for the Commission’s first four years.

Helen Clark and Ruth Dyson said that the government, after consultating with United Future, has appointed six Commissioners, including former Race Relations Conciliator Dr Rajen Prasad as Chief Commissioner.

“Families are the basic building block of our society. The Families Commission will be a unique institution whose primary function, mandated in legislation, will be to speak up for families and to assist governments to provide better support for families.

“Six Commissioners have been appointed and bring a variety of family, advocacy and governance skills to their roles. Members of the initial Commission are:
·Dr Rajen Prasad, Chief Commissioner (full-time appointment)
·bioethics specialist Sharron Cole (Deputy Chief Commissioner)
·psychiatrist Prof Mason Durie
·legal expert Sandra Alofivae
·former Human Rights Commissioner Carolynn Bull, and
·long-time family advocate Lyn Campbell.

“The Commissioners will be responsible for appointing a chief executive to manage the Commission’s day-to-day operations and appoint permanent staff.

“The Commission will initially focus on issues for families with children, and on improving the information and data available about New Zealand families. It will work to enhance the resilience of the family unit.

“There have been many changes to families over the last 20 years. Pressures on families are different. For example some families are “work-rich”, with both parents working, while others have difficulty gaining employment or have low incomes. The stability of relationships is decreasing, and male-female roles in the family are changing.

“The Commission will be an advocate for all families, from the traditional nuclear family to multi-generational families,” Ruth Dyson said.

A full launch of the Commission will be held at Parliament on July 19th.

Families Commissioners: biographical information

Dr Rajen Prasad (Chief Commissioner)
Dr Prasad has extensive professional practice experience with families as a family and social worker. He has conducted substantive research into alternate family care of children and other family related matters. He also has a strong background in the governance and management of public and educational organisations. He was Race Relations Conciliator when it was a stand-alone Crown entity between 1996 and 2001 and he led Massey University at Albany in its establishment phase. Dr Prasad is originally from the Pacific and maintains close and significant relationships with the leaders of many cultures. He is currently a member of the Residence Appeal Authority.

Sharron Cole (Deputy Chief Commissioner)
Sharron Cole is currently employed as an assessor for the NZ Breastfeeding Authority, a researcher for the Nathaniel Centre (NZ Catholics Bioethics Centre), and as an advisor to ACC. She has a long and varied history of community service and participation. Her strengths include advocacy and close ongoing involvement with families. She has advised on the welfare of families, and bioethics. She has been active in the Parents Centre at both local and national levels since 1982. Sharron Cole has been an elected member of the Hutt Valley District Health Board since October 2001. She also serves on ACC’s Medical Misadventure Advisory Committee, the Medical Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal, and the Pharmac Consumer Advisory Committee.

Sandra Alofivae
Sandra Alofivae has 14 years professional legal experience specialising in family and youth law and 20 years experience of voluntary and community service with a particular focus on education for families and communities in South Auckland. She has extensive knowledge of family structures and the critical issues for Pacific families. Sandra Alofivae also possesses sound governance experience, including as a Board member for Presbyterian Support Northern. Sandra is fluent in Samoan.

Carolynn Bull
Carolynn Bull is currently a senior family law practitioner in Christchurch. She is a former Human Rights Commissioner (1989-1995) and member of the Legal Services Board (1991-1994). Carolynn has been a trustee of various community groups and a member of university and education councils and boards, and for 6 years a member of the Medical Council of New Zealand. She has links to Ngai Tahu.

Lyn Campbell
Lyn Campbell has considerable family/community advocacy experience, at the national and local levels. In her role with the Christchurch City Council she leads and manages cross sector partnerships with government, non-government and community organisations. Before that Lyn was Children’s Advocate at the Council. She has also had extensive experience in leading and advising on various family and community initiatives.

Professor Mason Durie
Professor Durie is a psychiatrist who has specialised in community psychiatry, family therapy and has been extensively involved in community/family/Maori health issues. He is currently Professor of Maori Research and Development at Massey University and Assistant Vice Chancellor (Maori). He is also chairperson of the Manawhenua Hauora tribal health consortium, a board member of Nga Pae o te Maramatanga (Horizons of Insight) Centre of Research Excellence at the University of Auckland, and has a wide range of community interests.