EDITORIAL: Stuff co.nz 21 November 2015
The long-standing belief that this country is universally a paradise for youngsters has been shattered, revealed as a charade by a Fairfax study of child homicide in New Zealand.
We should hang our heads in shame.
The heartbreaking photographs on the front of today’s Weekend Press bring into sharp focus the child abuse happening almost daily on the margins – but not exclusively the margins – of New Zealand society.
The data investigation has uncovered the appalling truth about the children who have been abused, neglected and maltreated by parents and caregivers.
Collectively we have failed the more than 200 children aged 0-14 who have died from such treatment since 1992, including the dozens of young souls whose photos we feature today, pictured on some of the happy days of their tragically short lives.
It is a harrowing series of statistics. Overshadowing the many individual findings is the fact New Zealand is one of the most dangerous countries in which to grow up.
A 2007 report by Unicef placed New Zealand last in the OECD in terms of safety for children and teenagers, with 23 deaths due to accidents and other injuries out of every 100,000 under-19 year olds. In comparison, per 100,000, there were 15 in Australia, 12 in Japan and eight in the United Kingdom.
A direct comparison of New Zealand’s performance more recently has not been possible as no similar study has since been released. However, it is thought likely that improvement, if any, since 2007 will have been minimal, given trends in other sets of data, including infant mortality rates.
So far this year 13 of our children have died suspiciously, four more than the annual average. Auckland’s Starship Hospital reports it is seeing more cases of serious abuse than ever while nationally a child goes into hospital every other day with inflicted injuries, burns, broken bones and head wounds. Worse, that statistic is believed widely under-reported.
The fact most child homicide victims are not known to Child, Youth and Family staff is also a sign that abuse cases are falling between the cracks.