Creating communities for all ages

  • Robyn McDonald
Senior Citizens

Grey Power Upper Hutt

"Creating communities for all ages"
Hapai Club Ferguson Drive Upper Hutt

President, Grahame Holmes, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to speak to you this afternoon. I want to discuss the need for New Zealand to create communities for all ages, which reflects the theme for next year's United Nations International Year for Older Persons - "Towards a society for all ages".

The nation has had over a decade of economic and social change. It has been a time for creating a new direction for New Zealand, and has not been an easy process. When New Zealand First negotiated the Coalition Agreement, we ensured that more caring was put into government policy. The economic model had, in our view, taken over as a priority. But we have been changing that priority and raising social issues as the priority. Yesterday, we heard our first woman Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley set out very clearly the agenda for every New Zealander during 1998. The Coalition Government is committed to making social policy a priority.

And we must all become involved. Community involvement and an opportunity for all to have input in to our social policy is essential. We want to see New Zealand become a successful, thriving and inclusive place to live. We want to give all New Zealanders the opportunities which will help them to achieve their potential. For we all have potential, it is our belief in ourselves and the systems around us that can help us to move forward. But, first and foremost, I believe each and every one of us must make take responsibility for our choices. Such acceptance of our responsibilities is the key to living in the '90's and into the 21st century.

The Government has set out six key social policy principles which we consider must be applied to all areas of social policy work. But we also want New Zealanders to debate them. Because again, we need community involvement and commitment. The need for community involvement and for a government responsive to the needs of New Zealanders is what inspired me to become involved in politics. And New Zealand First has made a difference. The concessions we negotiated in the Coalition Agreement are proof of that. And the partnership between National and New Zealand First is bearing fruit.

The commitment to social policy is one such example. The six principles we consider to be a starting point when working on social policy are: Principle 1: That everyone has a responsibility: ? to themselves; ? to their families; ? to their communities; ? to other taxpayers; and ? to society. Principle 2: Taking part in paid work underpins economic independence. Principle 3: Work expectations and income support obligations should be linked to a person's capacity and ability to work. Principle 4: Government social assistance must be designed to encourage people to help themselves.

Principle 5: Government assistance should focus resources on those most in need. Principle 6: Government social services will work to strengthen families. These principles will be applied to the areas we are currently working on, which include: ? the proposed Code of Social and Family Responsibility; ? The Employment Strategy; ? Education 2000 initiatives; ? Health Services for the Future; ? Strengthening Families Strategy; and ? Welfare Reform We already know that the taxpayers contributions to New Zealand life are not a never ending supply.

We have to be accountable for the way we use that money, and past experience has proven that throwing money at problems in the hope that it will resolve the issue, does not work. Neither can government pretend to have all the answers, that is why we are asking the community for its views. The booklet on the Code will be posted out to households next week and it identifies 11 issues that we, as a nation need to look at: n looking after our children, pregnancy care, keeping children healthy, learning for the under fives, getting children to school ready to learn, n young offenders, sharing parenthood, training and learning for employment, work obligations and income support, managing money, and keeping ourselves healthy.

You will notice your role has not been specifically identified in the booklet, as government has the final report from the Taskforce on Positive Ageing which has addressed ageing issues, to consider. In all of the areas identified in the Code, I see senior citizens playing a vital role in helping family and community members You have life experience and knowledge which is invaluable to us all and your input on the proposed Code is essential. I do believe that as we move to next year's celebration - the United Nations International Year of Older Persons, we need to ensure that here, in New Zealand, your contributions are recognised more.

My own thought is to use the year to encourage other community members to recognise and acknowledge your essential community role, and to promote the expansion of that role. Planning is only just beginning within government on what activities we can highlight for the year. And that is where I also need your input and your suggestions. The United Nations, I understand is promoting the year particularly as an occasion for non-government organisations. The United Nations sees the year as an opportunity for non-government organisations to work together to raise awareness of ageing issues, and especially to focus on organisations which are not usually associated with ageing issues.

The role the United Nations sees for political leaders, is to have a focal point for the Year to ensure that information on ageing issues is widely promoted. The official launch for the Year is to be 1 October 1998, which is the International Day of Older Persons, and incidentally, coincides with our Great and Grands Month. Great and Grands Month is an initiative of the Senior Citizens Unit which aims to increase participation of older people in schools. For the International Year of Older Persons, the American Association of Retired Persons has established "Coalition '99 - Partnership for an Ageing Society - Focusing on International Year of Older Persons - and Beyond". Coalition '99 is an international database of organisations with an interest in ageing and for working together on planning for 1999.

As part of this, the aim is to also raise awareness of ageing issues and advocates for their recognition on social policy agenda. The Australian Coalition '99 was established last year, and my intention is to ensure that the New Zealand Coalition '99 is also set up this year. I want to bring together non-government organisations and individuals in the community to work with me as Minister, on a united front towards positive ways of approaching older age into the next century. We are still working on a New Zealand theme for the Year, and again I invite any suggestions as to what theme we could have which related to the United Nations theme of "Towards a society for all ages".

I place considerable importance on the need to create communities for all ages. It is all too easy for each age group to only connect and relate to their peers. And I see the Government's strengthening families policy as a very positive focus for integrating the needs and support between the different generations. One area I am also focusing on is how to make community life more secure for our older people. It has concerned me to see recent reports of more vicious attacks on older people.

These attacks are totally unacceptable and I am working with my colleague, the Minister of Police, Jack Elder to develop a response to empower older people. I understand you recently had your local community constable talk to you about security, and I do believe that the move by Police in recent years to greater community policing will help. It is important too, when looking at security that we involve the community by informing people on how to be alert to suspicious incidences and also to promote being good neighbours.

The Neighbourhood Support initiative is the model for this type of community sharing and responsibility. Recently I wrote to Francis Hustler of Orewa, commending him for his brave efforts in thwarting an attacker while he was out pushing a friend's baby in a pushchair. I was heartened by his determination not to let the unpleasant attack affect his lifestyle. He also praised the Orewa police for their support and assistance.

We must continue to build safer communities through the community actively participating, and co-ordinating with the Police, in crime prevention measures. I intend to promote vigorously the need for safety and well-being for older people, while ensuring continuing independence. In closing, I believe the next year has some exciting opportunities for senior citizens and ageing issues, and in particular, to work towards my aim of creating communities for all ages. My thanks again, for the opportunity to talk to you today.