Having now had the opportunity to consider, publicly discuss and comment on all major political party policy, I have sat down with my board and SJA has written its own specific policy focusing on the areas of interest we are advocating on within the community.
Of recent times it appears that youth crime is spiraling out of control and that very issue has been a big part of the election debate currently being had.
I have always said youth crime starts from within the home environment and to counteract or stop youth crime we need to understand exactly what is going on in that individual’s life to bring them to the point of committing the crimes they do.
Social Justice Aotearoa will advocate New Zealand to be a place where tamariki feel valued, connected, and respected.
It is simple when we say every child has the right to feel valued, connected, loved, and respected, because there are so many children out there that are living in totally dysfunctional families where drug and alcohol abuse and use is rife, children are being brought up by their older siblings while their parents or parent are simply not around when they need to be.
The above scenario is not normal, but it is occurring in so many families every day in New Zealand and seemingly hasn’t been addressed by the current government nor by governments of the past.
Children of New Zealand are the future of our country, and we need to do everything we can to make sure every child gets a decent start in life and every opportunity given to them that they deserve.
All youth live in safe and healthy homes, have appropriate and accessible mental health and social support and free access to education, including tertiary education.
The above are all commonsense policies but unsurprisingly a lot of our youth do not have access to a lot of the above because of the family/living situations.
Last year New Zealand, only 45.6 % of our children were attending school regularly. We say in a normal functional family environment the parents make sure the children get to school. These statistics are shocking and there needs to be accountability.
All youth who commit crime will be treated with respect and understanding.
This goes without saying but currently, as we have seen our vulnerable youth who need support, have been abused and violated within the current system and that needs to stop. Yes, I accept that there is an inquiry going on but just remember previous government inquiries that have highlighted terrible concerns but still today nothing has changed.
Police and support government agencies will ensure that the environment the offender lives in, and the whanau support they should be receiving, are appropriate for that offender.
This part of our policy will enable police or any government agency to go into a youth offenders’ home and make sure the environment they are living in is fit for purpose. I have said many times we have children living in situations that they should not be living in, and this will certainly help reduce this.
All youth offenders will be required to complete a youth mentoring course which includes education and live skills training.
I attended the spirit of adventure in my youth years, and what an experience it was teaching me skills that I might not have learned had I not gone. SJA believes that all youth offenders having to attend the same structured sort of program would be a commonsense way of getting the vulnerable youth of New Zealand back on track in a positive way. Boot camps are not the answer, and our position will not change.
All youth are entitled to be respected and listened to. Everyone is entitled to justice, a fair hearing, and to be treated with respect in the justice system.
Again, this goes without saying, but I will say not only youth deserve the above, all citizens of Aotearoa should be treated this way in our judicial system.
Jackie Foster, CEO, Social Justice Aotearoa