• Roger Sowry
Social Services, Work and Income

Legislative Council Chamber, Parliament Buildings

Firstly, I'd like to extend a warm welcome to everyone here this morning.

Breaking the Cycle is the most important public relations campaign that the Department of Social Welfare will undertake this year. In the past 10 months, 22% of abuse and neglect assessments by social workers included emotional abuse. Social workers believe that is just the tip of the iceberg.

To date the Breaking the Cycle campaign has succeeded in bringing abuse out into the open.

Adults, young people and children are learning slowly to not feel guilty and learning that it is okay to talk about their experiences. We all know that child abuse is not acceptable.

This hasn't happened by accident. It has taken a concerted effort from the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service, Police, community organisations etc to structure a thorough programme to educate New Zealanders about abuse.

The initial stages of the abuse campaign were very successful in making people aware of the issue. It was always intended that the campaign move from awareness to action.

Analysis following the ads on TV and in other media, showed a marked increase in New Zealanders awareness of abuse and how to get help.

But we couldn't stop there, the job is not yet finished. There are still many families in which patterns of behaviour and abuse are being passed on to the next generation.

This cycle of abuse must be broken if we are to avoid the consequences - a breakdown of our wider society. We want our children to have the opportunity to grow up in a healthy society. It is up to us as parents to ensure that our children have that opportunity.

Breaking cycles, and changing family patterns is not easy. It's hard enough just bringing up children in this day and age.

The long term benefits of positive changes cannot be underestimated and we as parents must lead by example.

Our children look up to us. They learn much of their behaviour from our behaviour. So it follows that if we don't like the ways our children are behaving, we must look to ourselves to find the solution.

I believe the message of this campaign is right on the mark. If we want our children to behave we'd better behave ourselves.

Research has shown that arguing in front of our children, shouting at them or putting them down can have lasting effects.

Being a parent is a tough job. I can not stand up here today and tell you that I have never said or done anything hurtful to my children in the heat of the moment.

Yet when parents regularly shout at, swear at, or put-down their children, those young ones are made to feel insecure and threatened.

It is easy for parents to forget how they felt as children witnessing their parents fighting, putting them down, threatening them. Many parents don't realise the power they have to hurt their children, make them feel worthless or unloved. These children often grow up to be unhappy adults.

The saddest thing is that those children grow up having learned that such behaviours are normal. The most destructive outcome is that they pass on those patterns to their children, and so the cycle continues.

The Breaking the Cycle campaign is showing people that there is a better way, that New Zealand parents can make a difference.

As Minister of Social Welfare I am well aware of the cases of children referred to the Children Young Person and Their Families Service. Some of these tragic cases would bring you to tears.

Many of the cases have a common factor. A lack of parenting skills or lack of parental responsibility.

A little positive action from both parents could have changed the lives of their children and may have prevented them coming to our attention.

As parents it is our responsibility to provide our children with a safe environment to grow up in, to nurture them, provide them with boundaries, provide them with a positive role model, and most importantly to lead by example.

The third stage being launched today, is designed to prompt parents to take a look at themselves and the ways they relate to their children.

It will mean adults and parents taking a hard look at themselves, admitting that their behaviour towards their children, their families and others may be abusive, then taking some positive action.

Positive change will benefit themselves, their families and benefit our society as a whole.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to launch the third phase of the Breaking the Cycle campaign today.