Creating positive change

Our children and tamariki are our future. Today's children will grow up to be our co-workers, teachers and leaders. It's essential that children are loved, cared for, encouraged and supported to develop and be all they can be. This is why Barnardos advocates for all children, and to help create positive change for and with children.


Championing all children

Barnardos stands strongly for the rights and well-being of all children in Aotearoa New Zealand. Across our early learning and social services and in communities throughout the country, we talk with and listen to children from all walks of life.  This means we have strong insights into children’s hopes and aspirations, as well as the challenges they’re facing. It's vital that their ideas and experiences are heard and championed, so we  build an Aotearoa New Zealand where every child can flourish and realise their potential.


Some of the challenges facing Kiwi kids

It’s common to hear Kiwis talk about what a great place New Zealand is to grow up. Although most children in New Zealand do experience a positive and thriving childhood unfortunately, too many children and tamariki are experiencing a different reality.

Child and Youth Suicide

  • Among OECD countries, New Zealand has the highest rate of suicide for adolescents aged 15-19: 15.6 suicides per 100,000 persons. This is nine times higher than Portugal, the OECD country with the lowest rate.

(Source: UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, UNICEF Innocenti Report Card 14: Children in the Developed World - Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries, June 2017, p.20)

  • In the year between July 2016 and June 2017, 606 people in New Zealand committed suicide.
  • 8 were aged 10-14 years old
  • 15 were aged 15-19 years old
  • 24 were aged 20-24

(Source: Coronial Services of New Zealand Purongo O te Ao Kakarauri, National Provisional Suicide Statistics – August 2017)

  • 15 year olds in New Zealand report the second-highest rate of bullying out of 51 countries surveyed by the OECD, meaning almost 1 in 5 Kiwi students meet the criteria for being described as ‘frequently bullied’

(Source: OECD Publishing, PISA 2015 Results: Student’s Well-being, Vol. 3, 2017)

Child Poverty

  • 27% of children in New Zealand are living in low income homes – that’s 290,000 children living in homes which are experiencing income poverty (income less than 60% of the median contemporary income)
  • 12% of children in New Zealand are living in material hardship – that’s 135,000 children living in households without 7 or more items necessary for their well-being such as food, shoes and clothes
  • 6% of children in New Zealand are experiencing even greater material hardship, with households lacking 9 or more items necessary for children’s well-being – that’s 70,000 children
  • 7% of children in New Zealand are living in severe poverty – that’s 80,000 children living in a low income household and experiencing material hardship

(Source: Office of the Children’s Commissioner and Otago University, Child Poverty Monitor: 2017 Technical Report, based on Ministry of Social Development data)

Child Abuse & Neglect

  • From 2009-2015, there were 194 family violence deaths in New Zealand. Children accounted for 56 of these deaths, resulting from child abuse and neglect. 80% of those children were under five years of age. (Source: Family Violence Death Review Committee’s Fifth Report Data, 2017).
  • Approximately 150,000 notifications of concern about child safety, abuse or neglect are made to Oranga Tamariki annually. Approximately 16,000 of these result in substantiated findings of child abuse and neglect. (Source: Office of the Children’s Commissioner).

This is not the Aotearoa New Zealand we want children and tamariki to live in. All children should grow up feeling loved, safe and supported. They should never fear for their lives, go without enough food or adequate shelter, feel worthless and unloved, or feel alone or need to fend for themselves.

Advocating for an Aotearoa New Zealand where every child shines bright

Barnardos believes in an Aotearoa New Zealand where all children thrive because of good care, education and health. Where they can access extra support if and when they need it in ways that work for them. An Aotearoa New Zealand where all children get to actively live and experience their rights which they are entitled to under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. Children who feel confident and capable, resilient and culturally connected, with a strong sense of hope for their future, encouraged to pursue their dreams.

Our advocacy aims to influence policies, practices, systems, laws and organisations so that they protect and promote children and their rights and well-being. The issues we're currently advocating on to create positive change for children and tamariki are:

  • The impact of a lack of household income on children
  • The impact of physical and emotional harm on children
  • Child and youth suicide prevention
  • Reducing bullying
  • Healthy and safe housing for all children

Our advocacy is constructive and highlights effective solutions and ideas to address problems. Recently we published our Briefing to the Incoming Government 2017, which focuses on key priorities for children in New Zealand. You can read our briefing here (PDF 5.03MB).


Amplifying children’s voices

As well as solid research and evidence, Barnardos' advocacy for children's rights and well-being is informed by the lived experience of children, tamariki, young people and rangatahi and what they tell us.

  • We represent and reflect children's voices in our advocacy, to influence positive change which will have real outcomes for children in New Zealand.
  • We amplify children's experiences and elevate their voices — so they can tell their own stories.
  • We draw on the insight and knowledge we have from working with and listening to a wide range of children, their families and whānau across our Early Learning Centres and Home-Based Network and our Child and Family Services.
  • We consult with children on decisions that affect them and work constructively with the government and other key decision-makers on their behalf, to share their views and to present solutions that will work for Kiwi kids.  
  • We lobby, petition and campaign for awareness and advancement of the rights and well-being of all children in Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • We partner with other organisations to extend our impact and do what’s needed to deliver our vision of an Aotearoa New Zealand where every child shines bright.

Children and Young People's experiences of COVID-19
Reflections on the time in lockdown & feelings about Level 2

On 13 May 2020, the last day on New Zealand's COVID-19 Alert Level 3, we polled a small group of children and teenagers to find out how they are feeling about the situation we are in. We polled them through our Barnardos 0800 WHATUP Instagram, so they know that help is there for them from our trained counsellors if they want a safe place to talk about anything at all.

In our poll, we asked how they felt about Aotearoa moving to Alert Level 2, about their time in their mirumiru (bubbles) under lockdown, and what they were looking forward to as the COVID-19 recovery journey begins.

Here's what this group of tamariki and rangatahi told us.


One way we advocate for children’s rights and well-being is by making submissions on important issues and new or amended laws and policies affecting children. Here are some of our recent submissions:


Find out more

We welcome your support to join with us in building a culture of respecting, protecting and celebrating all children as the taonga they are.


Who to contact

If you’d like to know more, contact Mahala Pinchen, Advocacy Advisor.