Safer communities

We all have a part to play in our community. Here are some ways you can help make safer communities in New Zealand and people who can help you.

Safer communities with the Police.

The Police will always respond to emergencies where a child’s life or immediate well-being is in danger. However, they also recognise that they can build safer communities by helping parents create a safe and positive home life for their children.

The Police have many programmes that encourage young people to take a responsible role in society, and to contribute positively to the community in which they live. One of these programmes is the Law Related Education Programme.

Specially trained Police officers, in partnership with teachers, social workers and community workers, help educate children about such topics as crime prevention, traffic safety, community policing and victim support. Two of the biggest programmes under the Law Related Education umbrella are Keeping Ourselves Safe, a very successful programme for children about the dangers of sexual abuse, and DARE, which looks at drug and alcohol issues.

The Police have also been involved in programmes such as: The Role of the Police; Safe Walking; Safe Cycling; Safely Home; Minder (babysitting); Fingerprinting; Emergency Situations (dial 111); Keeping Law and Order; Lost; Search and Rescue; Stealing; Vandalism; Kia Ka Ha (bullying). The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service sees as its vision “all families meeting their care, control and support responsibilities”. The service works with other groups for the protection, well-being and best management of children in safe families.

Child, Youth and Family aims to include family/whanau in the decision making process for children and young people. It provides care and protection for children and young people when they are believed to be “at risk” because they are experiencing (or are likely to experience) such things as physical or sexual abuse, violence and conflict between their caregivers, emotional or physical neglect, or mistreatment from caregivers

The service also provides youth justice, which is a special section of the law that deals with offending by children aged 10-13 years and young people aged 14-16 years. Children and young people who break the law are treated differently from adults who offend. The law makes sure they are accountable and encouraged to accept responsibility for their offending, but also aims to help young offenders learn from their mistakes and develop in a socially acceptable way.

The Adoption Service is a branch of Child, Youth and Family that provides advice on adoption both within New Zealand and from other countries. Community Councils The Crime Prevention Unit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has in place a long term strategy that focuses on crime prevention and community safety. It is a strategy that involves not only the Government and its agencies, but also communities and individual members of those communities.

The strategy aims to coordinate efforts to develop solutions to the problems of offending and antisocial behaviour. As a result, more than 50 Safer Community Councils have been established throughout New Zealand. The councils have been entrusted with putting in place social crime prevention strategies, which include several areas designed to protect and enhance the safety and well-being of children.

Seven key areas identified are:

  • Supporting “at risk” families.
  • Reducing family violence.
  • Targeting youth “at risk” of offending.
  • Minimising the formal involvement of casual offenders within the criminal justice system (diversion).
  • Developing an approach for the management of programmes that address the misuse and abuse of both alcohol and drugs.
  • Addressing the incidence of white collar crime.
  • Addressing the concerns of victims and potential victims.

The Hillary Commission The Hillary Commission aims to improve the lifestyle of all New Zealanders by promoting and developing sport, fitness and leisure activities. The commission was established to not only encourage top-level sporting achievements, but also to get ordinary people involved in sport and leisure activities. It recognises that participation in regular activities builds healthy, confident people, local pride and strong, cohesive communities, and a strong sense of national identity and pride. It puts an emphasis on junior sport, saying that the kids who have a go, feel part of the action and play sport designed specially for them, will grow up with great memories.

Those who are left on the bench, forced to play with much bigger kids or stuck at home because no one would coach their team will probably be the first to drop out. A big proportion of the commission’s funds (from the Lotteries Grants Board with a top up from the Government), goes to community activities, where everyone is encouraged to participate, regardless of their age, fitness or physical ability.

Safer communities with family/whanau workers.

The core of the Family Start programme is home visiting by a family/whanau worker. This person works with the family to identify priorities and to support them to achieve their goals. A family may be involved with many different agencies. The family/whanau worker acts as an advocate and coordinator between all agencies to ensure that the family’s priorities are met. Families can be referred for Family Start by doctors, lead maternity carers such as midwives, child health services, Plunket or hospital maternity services. The family/whanau must consent to the referral first.

Safer communities for Maori children and their parents.

Atawhaingia Te Pa Harakeke: nurture the whanau, starts with the premise that all parents and whanau want the best for themselves and for their children. They want to see their kids growing up healthy and strong, enjoying childhood, going to school, learning what they need to learn to that they can live responsible and productive lives. Atawhaingia Te Pa Harakeke looks to traditional Maori customs and values as an available source of a wealth of positive guidance.

These tikanga are capable of assisting whanau to develop caring and nurturing homes for their children. The programme gives concrete expression to these cultural practices, made up of two distinct yet connected strands of learning: Hakorotanga for parents; and He Taonga Te Mokopuna for young children. Hakorotanga provides practical ideas that all parents can use to achieve the best possible results for their whanau. Often the missing ingredient to success is merely knowledge, understanding or a skill to help create the right climate in the home. He Taonga Te Mokopuna helps children to develop ways to keep themselves safe.

It also requires whanau and other caregivers to build safety nets that provide assurance and support in turn to the children. This enables the whole community, including the children, to recognise unsafe situations, and actively safeguard against them. Atawhaingia Te Pa Harakeke: nurture the whanau, was devised within Early Childhood Development, and has been trialled on marae.

How am I doing?

How are you helping make safer communities?

Being a parent is a tough job. No one else can be as frustrating as our own kids. Children often have a knack of getting at us when we’re feeling our worst or our weakest. So everyone has bad days. And some days our feelings towards our children might not be called loving. Parents sometimes are under a lot of stress. And sometimes when we react, like out in public, it seems as if half the world sees it and silently passes some sort of finger-pointing judgment.


  • You gave up an interesting job and now find yourself tied to your home and a demanding baby or toddler. And the most interesting conversation you’ve had all day was those brief, banal moments with the supermarket checkout operator who asked you how your day has been and wasn’t interested in your reply.
  • You miss your work friends and seem to have lost your identity.
  • You have taken a new partner – and didn’t realise what it would be like taking on her/his children as well.
  • You’re unemployed or a solo parent, not getting much money or support.
  • Your teenage children are making life difficult by arguing with you and wanting to make their own decisions.
  • You have to work long hours and you are tired and cross when you get home, and the kids pick that exact moment to play up.
  • You find yourself resenting things you can’t do because of the children.

When resentful and angry feelings pile up on top of a stressful life, you might find yourself saying and doing hurtful things to your children. You might even use the same punishments that you hated when your parents used them on you. You might need to get help, but how can you tell? Ask yourself:

  • Do I feel anxious, get frustrated and angry when the baby cries?
  • Do I resent my kids and wish sometimes that I had never had them?
  • Do I think my child is deliberately trying to annoy me when he or she refuses to eat or makes a mess?
  • Do I think my child is deliberately trying to make work for me when he or she refuses to use the toilet or soils a nappy?
  • Is one or more of my children especially naughty or difficult to manage?
  • Do I think my partner might be saying or doing hurtful things to my children?
  • Have I a child who wasn’t wanted and I don’t really like him or her very much?
  • Are there times when I feel I can’t cope alone and have no one to turn to?
  • Do I feel that my children are too demanding, especially when I am tired?
  • Do I resent being left to mind someone else’s kids?
  • Do I ever smack or shake a baby or toddler to try to make the child stop crying?
  • Do I ever, when I am tired and frustrated, throw a crying child back into the cot?
  • Do I leave my children alone or with someone else for long periods of time just to get away from them?
  • Do I feel angry when my children fail to measure up to my expectations?
  • Do I let my children stay up late because it’s easier to let them fall asleep in front of the TV than try to get them to bed when they don’t want to go?
  • Do I yell and lash out at my children when I am under stress?
  • As a last resort do I give children drugs or alcohol to put them to sleep and give me a bit of peace?
  • Have I ever burnt or scalded a child deliberately?
  • Do I ever hit with a belt or cord and leave marks?
  • Do I watch my partner hurt my children and do nothing about it because I am frightened?
  • Do I let my children be out for long periods, especially at night, when I don’t know where they are or who they are with?
  • Do I sometimes withhold food or love from my child as punishment?

How you can help make safer communities.

If you answered “yes” to some of these questions, please get help NOW. If you know someone else who is hurting or neglecting their children, try to persuade them to get help. If they refuse and a child is being hurt or abused, please contact your local office of Child, Youth and Family and tell them about it.