Being called on to Puketeraki Marae yesterday was a special moment for myself and my Plunket colleagues, as we celebrated 110 years of Whānau Āwhina. We were joined by Kāti Huirapa whānau and tamariki from Karitane School for our hikoi from the marae to Karitane, home of our founder Sir Truby King, and the wellspring from which Plunket emerged over a century ago. Each of us felt privileged to be there and reflect on our connection to Plunket and to the staff and volunteers who came before us who, like us, believed in making a difference for tamariki and their families.
Plunket people, like many across the country, were genuinely thrilled by the announcement from the Prime Minister and her partner Clarke Gayford on Friday last week. Yet the news that they are hapū also stirred up some less helpful opinions about parenting and prescribed gender roles. Much of the more negative commentary centred on the concern that mothers may not be capable of working and parenting a child.
Plunket is proud to be one of over thirty organisations calling for a long-term and non-partisan focus on reducing child poverty, keeping children’s health and wellbeing at the heart of this country’s journey forward.
Collectively, we believe the time is right for a strong and enduring response to reducing child poverty. This announcement supports Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft’s call for legislation that affirms a set of appropriate measures of child poverty and commits each government to set and reach targets for poverty reductions, which will have the effect of improving children’s wellbeing.
Now the Government has moved to give parents or caregivers up to 26 weeks paid parental leave by 2020, the debate has moved on – should both parents or caregivers be given the choice to take that leave at the same time? What’s best for babies and whānau – what are parents telling us they need, and what does the evidence show?
First, let’s take a breath and recognise the extension of paid parental leave for the great leap forward it is – we’ve campaigned for this for several years, as have others (we’re looking at you, Sue Moroney). We’ve welcomed successive Governments’ incremental extensions to paid parental leave. We’ve done this because supporting parents and caregivers to spend time with their babies is exactly the good idea it seems – it’s recognized globally as providing significant benefits to tamariki, whānau and communities.