366 days of gratitude

May 17, 2016

Our second son would have been celebrating a birthday today.

But he died just 10 days after his fifth birthday. He had a brain disorder that left him with multiple handicaps and had led to the death of his older brother, Tom, when he was only 20 weeks-old.

When Dan died I was sad, but I was also relieved. Looking after a five year-old who could do no more than a new-born child was demanding and I knew our lives would be easier without him but I also know they are better because he lived.

His death freed us up to do things which were difficult to do with him but his life made us realise we shouldn’t take them for granted.

It was easy to say he couldn’t do anything but he taught us to appreciate simple pleasures, to lose the ignorance we had about intellectual disability, how fortunate we are to be part of a close extended family and circle of friends, that ability isn’t a right but a privilege and that love really is stronger than death.

Today I’m grateful for all of that.

Aren’t we supposed to be enjoying this?

December 24, 2015

I had an enforced pause in Christmas Eve proceedings this morning when I arrived at the berry farm 30 minutes before it opened for sales.

As I waited I pondered the news stories I’d heard and read about the stress of Christmas.

Some were of people in dire circumstances which is a reminder to those who have more than enough to help those who haven’t.

Others were of people who have enough but have forgotten what Christmas is supposed to be about.

Whether or not you’re a Christian, what really matters is people and love and if you’ve got enough, remember you’re supposed to be enjoying Christmas.

I got the berries and now, at the other end of the day, I’m waiting for the pavlova to cook.

As I do I”m also looking forward to tomorrow with three generations of extended family and some waifs and strays who are far from home.

May you all have a blessed Christmas and may 2016 be kind to you and yours.




Quote of the day

December 23, 2015

When you have a child, your previous life seems like someone else’s. It’s like living in a house and suddenly finding a room you didn’t know was there, full of treasure and light. – Carol Ann Duffy who celebrates her 60th birthday today.

Am I my worker’s child’s keeper?

August 13, 2015

He turned up to work for us with a partner and five-year-old child, and little more than the clothes they stood up in.

He said they’d left their last job in a hurry because the boss made him drink too much.

I said to my farmer, call me sceptical but if you weren’t in imminent danger wouldn’t you have time to take a few essentials like bedding with you?

But we needed staff when it was difficult to find any so we gave him the job, found them basic household requirements and he started working.

Soon we got the letter requiring us to deduct money for fines from his pay and another requiring us to deduct child support.

Then we noticed the boy wasn’t going to school. We’d given them the usual information about the community including choice of schools when they arrived. We followed up but there was always some excuse as to why he wasn’t going.

In the end we approached the nearest school and were told that while most children enrolled at five, it wasn’t a legal requirement until they were six.

The boy turned six and still wasn’t going to school.

My farmer asked the father why and was told, “We took him but we didn’t like the principal because he  . . . ”

My farmer pointed out that the principal was a she.

The boy was enrolled but his attendance was at best erratic. The parents had a range of excuses, none of which were valid.

The boy looked well fed and happy, and there were no signs of abuse but the school got in touch with the Public Health nurse who began visiting the home.

Shortly afterwards the father gave his notice.

He got another job in the district. The grapevine told us of problems then the mother appeared in court for assaulting the father.

They left the district and we haven’t heard of them since.

But I still think about the boy who will be a teenager now and wonder could we have done any more for him?

Are people who knew the latest in the far too long list of children who have died in suspicious circumstances asking the same questions?

And what about people who know the children who aren’t yet in the list but in danger of joining it?

For everyone reported, how many more are victims of abuse and neglect and how many of these go on to neglect and abuse others?

If there were simple answers to the questions of why? and how? and what can be done?, it would be being done.

But difficult answers aren’t an excuse for not helping those in need now and addressing the causes to prevent more.

In light of which I am my worker’s child’s keeper but I don’t know what else I could have done to help him.

Quote of the day

August 13, 2015

Metro United Way's photo.

Students who are loved at home,  come to school to learn, and students who aren’t, come to school to be loved. Nicholas A. Ferroni.

Home should be safe

August 6, 2015

Justice Minister Amy Adams has launched a review into New Zealand’s family violence legislation:

“Combating family violence is my top priority. The rate of family violence in New Zealand is horrific. While the Government has a comprehensive work programme underway, I think the law can do more to reduce the incidence and impact of family violence,” says Ms Adams.

“This review won’t shy away from taking a hard look at our laws and raising some challenging questions. The reality is if we want different outcomes we have to be prepared to do things differently.

The law underpins our response to family violence, so we need to make sure the broad set of laws that apply to family violence are effective and work well together.

The discussion document raises a number of starters for discussion, including:

  • establishing a set of standalone family violence offences
  • creating an additional pathway for victims, perpetrators and whānau who want help to stop violence, but don’t want to have to go to court
  • ideas about improving the accessibility and effectiveness of protection orders
  • doing a better job of sharing information where family violence concerns arise between agencies and within the courts
  • considering compelling police action in certain circumstances such as requiring mandatory arrest for all breaches of protection orders
  • more prominence to victim safety in related legislation like the Care of Children Act and bail and sentencing law.

“When it was passed in 1995, the Domestic Violence Act was world-leading. It set out a clear response to family violence and distinguished it from other forms of crimes. While successive Governments have modified it over the years, it’s time for a rethink,” says Ms Adams.

“Laws are not the whole picture. We can’t legislate our way out of this. But our laws are a cornerstone element in how we respond to family violence.

“This Government is committed to better addressing the high rate of family violence. The home should be a safe place for all women, children, and men and we want to do our best to protect victims from re-victimisation. 

“This review is just one part of government work toward a coordinated, integrated and efficient response to family violence and sexual violence and is a central part of the cross-government package announced last year by Prime Minister John Key.”

The public consultation opens today at https://consultations.justice.govt.nz/policy/family-violence-law and runs until 18 September.

We have moved on from the time when family violence was regarded as “only a domestic” but it is still a serious problem.

Violence is not acceptable anywhere. It is worse at home which ought to be a safe place.
New Zealand National Party's photo.


August 5, 2015

An Auckland mother has admitted letting a neighbour sexually violate her nine-year-old daughter in exchange for cash. . .

How could any mother do that to her child?



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