Thank you for telling me about and introducing me to the Jade Speaks Up Programme. As a family law barrister, I have seen the consequences of family violence and unresolved conflict in many family/whanau and other relationship situations. I have witnessed the distress and damage caused to children and understand how seriously this can impact their development and future wellbeing.I am so encouraged learning about Jade Speaks Up! I see how powerfully this programme could act as an intervention to empower and support the children who participate, and through them, their whanau and communities. The results from your 3-year pilot demonstrate already what the programme has achieved to date.
There are many things I could say about the programme which appear very positive. Here are some of the strengths that I see:
- Using the school environment as the forum for delivery, a place where most children must attend and where there is a chance to connect with whanau and caregivers as well as other related agencies and experts.
- Using teachers as the facilitators, people who children are likely to trust already, and therefore providing a platform upon which to build further trust.
- Working in the classroom environment and with a whole school (years 5 – 8) to build awareness of and compassion for other children as well as teaching practical relationship and ‘keeping safe’ skills. This education will benefit all children who participate, not only those perceived as ‘at risk’ now. The statistics on improvement in classroom behaviour and reduction in bullying associated with participation in the programme are encouraging.
- The goals of the programme and outcomes sought are visionary but also very practical.
- The emphasis on supporting and training teachers to follow appropriate procedures for dealing with receiving disclosures, will serve and better protect children who are involved in intervention by other agencies. I have seen cases where this has not happened and the consequent damage that has been caused.
- The intention to continue to improve and modify the programme through feedback from users and advisers, ongoing data collection and review of results, and a commitment to maintaining integrity to the vision of the programme rather than attachment to particular outcomes.
- The support and advice of the Advisory Board and the links with other related agencies, including consultation with Māori and Pasifika.
I know from my work representing children as Lawyer for the Child in Family Court cases, the transformation that can take place when a child experiences being given the chance to speak and be listened to and how this validation can support a child even when the circumstances of their situation does not immediately change.
This programme will only be as successful as the support it is allocated. I am aware that the resources of teachers and schools are already stretched and so they will need adequate resourcing to support them in delivering Jade Speaks Up effectively. The feedback from teachers as to the value of this programme should be taken seriously, in particular the improvement in classroom behaviour which must benefit the children and help to keep good teachers in education.
Jade Speaks Up does not pretend to be the fix-all but rather a powerful tool to work alongside other initiatives that share the vision for all tamariki to flourish and reach their full potential. It is in line with the Government’s 2018 pledge to improve the wellbeing of children and young people in New Zealand. We all know that this goal can only be achieved if, as a nation, we commit to addressing the underlying causes of family violence and unsafe living circumstances, poverty, poor housing, poor mental health outcomes, addiction, inequality of opportunity and other structures of social dysfunction.
In my view, Jade Speaks Up deserves adequate funding and support in all aspects of delivery, development and continued evaluation, in recognition of the value we place on our children as taonga, and as an investment in the future wellbeing of and outcomes for the people of Aotearoa. I sincerely hope that it can be rolled out nation-wide.
There is a story about the Children’s Fire, a tiny fire that the elders of the ancient American people brought into the centre of their Circle of Law, to remind them of their pledge that no decision, action or entity would harm their children or Nature’s children for seven generations. Jade Speaks Up honours the Children’s Fire. I hope that its spark is kept alight.
“Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear, take care of what they see, take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa” Dame Whina Cooper.
Ngā mihi nui