Ensuring the wellbeing of Pasifika children
Eliminating abuse and neglect of children will be the focus of a meeting in May planned as a follow-up to discussion on the issue at the Pacific Allied Council Inspiring Faith and Ideals Concerning All (PACIFICA) conference in February.
The theme of the three-day conference was "Our Children, Our Future". Esther Cowley-Malcolm, President of the PACIFICA Auckland Central branch which hosted the conference, said the theme was chosen because children and youth comprise over half of the Pacific population and feature significantly in poor health and lower educational achievement.
"But what kind of a future is there for our children if they continue to feature as 'negative' statistics? The conference provided a forum for the Council as an organisation to openly address the issues of child abuse and neglect and us being steadfast and committed about being part of the solution, not the problem," Esther said.
"The 2005 annual conference has put these issues on the table for the first time so they are no longer under the carpet. We are now addressing these issues as an organisation and seeing how they are impacting on the Pacific community, and what we can do as an organisation and as Pacific women to make changes for the better. We're planning a follow-up meeting in May in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development to discuss the Pacific Plan in the Te Rito document and to give our views on how best this can be implemented."
The February conference included a presentation of the Pacific Islands Family Study being conducted by the Auckland University of Technology's Centre for Pacific Health and Development Research, and a presentation by Margie Fepulea'i (General Manager, Pacific Health, Counties-Manukau District Health Board) about their child health strategies.
The Tupu Trust held a workshop on how to resolve conflicts between teenagers and parents from a Pacific perspective, while the Ministry of Social Development gave a presentation on its positive parenting programme SKIP. There was a panel discussion on child abuse and neglect, Dr Jemaima Tiatia presented the findings from her PhD research on youth suicide, Lope Heath of the Brainwave Trust talked about nurturing children's brain development, and Police officer Regina Sheck spoke about her role in assisting Pacific youth. Massey University doctoral student Tracey Mafile'o spoke about her thesis and work as a Tongan social worker, while paediatrician Dr Peuila Percival talked of her specialist work at Middlemore Hospital on child abuse and neglect.
The event included the inaugural Pasifika Smokefree Awards, which recognised the work of Pasifika women in being smoke-free and making a significant contribution as Pacific women in their chosen categories – arts, sports, community and youth.
Esther said the conference had been attended by many key stakeholders and dignitaries including the Prime Minister Helen Clark and the three Pacific Members of Parliament. "There were also lots of young Pacific women attending including secondary students. They will be the future leaders of the organisation so it was good to see them there."
The conference received sponsorship from the Counties-Manukau District Health Board, the Auckland District Health Board Public Health Regional Services, SKIP, MSD, the Auckland City Council, and the Heart Foundation Pacific Heartbeat. "We are very grateful for their funding as it allowed us to host what was an exceptional conference."
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