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Safe mothers, safe children

Metiria Turei MP
Metiria Turei MP
metiria [dot] turei [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)

Rodney Hide’s latest piece in the NZ Heraldexposes a callous and dangerous attitude. He needs to ask himself whether he really wants solutions to reduce child death or whether he just wants to pontificate while more women and more children suffer. Every death of a child at the hands of parent is a deep and terrible tragedy. And we know that the best way to keep a child safe is to keep the protective parent safe.

By choosing to harangue mothers for the tragic deaths of their children, Hide has helped to reinforce the very ignorance that continues to put children at risk. A number of these women had no or very little assistance when pregnant and that shame and fear was a factor in the death of their new born babies. The fact that less than half of the 33 child deaths were at the hands of their mothers further shows that Hide is wrong in placing the sole focus on the mums.

First, Hide places much of the blame for these deaths on the Domestic Purposes Benefit. He claims that the financial support provided by the State enables abuse of children, when in fact without the DPB, it is clear that many thousands more children would suffer from poverty and the associated impacts of that poverty.

Second, the Police report that Hide’s article was based on shows that 12 out of the 15 children killed by their mothers were four years old or less. This strongly suggests post-natal depression played a part in these tragedies (indeed, three of these mothers killed themselves immediately after killing their children).

These tragic deaths seem to me to be the result of despair, not anger – quite a different picture from the child deaths caused by men.

We need solutions to prevent child death, not further vitriol levelled against women.

What is needed to prevent further deaths is more support for new mothers, not less. We have seen a systematic destruction of community services over recent decades, the hands on, trusted, non-judgemental support that all mothers could readily access as they needed. It is this kind of help that community workers say has to be reinstated to protect mothers and their children from violence, hardship and despair.

Post-natal depression, poverty and the lack of community support all need addressing in order to ensure that all children are able to have good lives and the best chance at a fair future. By ignoring these real issues and simply blaming mothers and the DPB, Rodney Hide is frightening even more women away from the help they need to keep themselves and their kids safe.

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