New Zealand families and whānau past, present and future were showcased at the fifth and final Evidence to Action (E2A) conference held on 10 April 2018. A keynote address from Professor Paul Spoonley was backed up by three scenarios from 1968, 2018 and 2068 which reinforced the theme of change (though some things remain the same. Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow cropped up in all three scenarios). Paul identified changes in the way families are formed that are so deep, broad and diverse as to require a whole new language. On the other hand, Dame Tariana Turia spoke of aspects of whānau and whakapapa that are timeless and connect people with place. There was general agreement that families and whānau continue to be important in public policy and several participants reported that this year’s E2A provided them with new perspectives to take back to work.
Notwithstanding the importance of families and whānau, the Families Commission’s advocacy role is soon to disappear. The Bill to repeal the Families Commission Act is working its way through Parliament and there have been no signs of a rising tide of antidisestablishmentarianism. Only six submissions were received by the Select Committee, and while several submitters expressed support for continuing the Commission’s role of advocating for families and were concerned that the advocacy functions would not be transferred to another agency, the Committee considered that there were adequate ways to ensure that the needs and interests of families and whānau were addressed. The Committee also believed that numerous agencies and NGOs could perform this advocacy role and that a single agency with a statutory responsibility for advocating for families and whānau was not required.
Time will tell whether the Committee is correct. In the short term, the Families Commission (aka Superu) is busy passing on what it can of its legacy. The proceedings of the E2A conference are on our website and other items in this eNews provide more information on various publications and events. Paul Spoonley has also reprised themes from his conference presentation in his regular radio interview with Kathryn Ryan on RNZ. All our publications can still be found on The Hub and key documents will be archived. Superu might be about to go on 30 June 2018, but its work won’t be lost.
Dr Malcolm Menzies
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