Many Māori children are being denied their basic human rights because of poverty and inadequate public services, says the Human Rights Commission.
Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres told the Māori Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the determinants of Māori children’s wellbeing today that international human rights standards apply across nations and cultures, and that the minimum they prescribe is a foundation for the wellbeing of people everywhere.
“Māori children have a basic right, for example, to health, education, housing, safety, and an adequate standard of living, to be free from discrimination, and for their language and culture to be respected and nourished,” Mr de Bres said. “This is not the case for many Māori children at present.”
Mr de Bres noted that there are more than a quarter of a million Māori children in New Zealand today – a quarter of all New Zealand children, yet according to the Ministry of Social Development a third of them live in conditions of poverty and hardship. The Government needed to work with Māori to define wellbeing for Māori children and to identify and implement appropriate actions.
Mr de Bres pointed to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the recommendations of several United Nations human rights treaty bodies that had called on the Government to take urgent action to improve the situation of Māori children.
Specifically the Commission recommended that the Select Committee:
- Reference the international human rights standards and comments from United Nations treaty bodies that apply to Māori children as a component in Māori children’s wellbeing.
- Recommend to Government that they:
engage on an ongoing basis with Māori, including Māori children, to articulate Māori definitions and determinants of wellbeing for Māori children
identify and implement appropriate targets and actions including for the elimination of Māori child poverty
collect data to monitor progress against targets on a basis agreed with Māori. The recent Statistics publication Te Ao Mārama is a small first step in this direction
require public agencies to actively address structural and institutional barriers to the full enjoyment of human rights by Māori children.