CENTRAL ROLE IN SOCIETY
Children and young people in New Zealand today are growing up arising from a range of cultures and family relationships all which increasingly undergo changes to their original structure. But there is still, however, little recognition or legal protection for different family arrangements and the important roles played by wider family members in the lives of children and young people. The current law does not yet adequately reflect the importance to people of their individual cultures, values and approaches to raising their children which impact on the welfare.
As elsewhere in the world, the family in New Zealand has a central role in society. Although the term ‘family’ is familiar to all, the meaning of the term depends on whether it is being interpreted in a social, biological, cultural or statistical sense.
In a social sense people may see themselves as being members of several families, as members of families with their parents and siblings and also members of families that they have formed themselves. They may have also family members whom they are not actually biologically related to. In a cultural- specific sense, individuals can also be members of a much larger family, Whānau, Hapu and Iwi such as is the case for Māori, the Chinese, Indonesians, Malaysians and Filipinos.
But most definitions of the term ‘family’ are made in reference to a household i.e., people who usually reside in the same household without making distinctions between one-parent, nuclear, blended, re-marriage or extended families nor distinguishing between types of parents such as natural, adopted, step, foster or ‘persons in a parent role’ – even if relationships of different types of parents with their children can be markedly dissimilar.
INCORPORATING CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
Family research provides insight into the structure of our society and the changes taking place in types, composition and growth of families. Although available literature often focuses on family living arrangements, family membership includes obliga-tions across and between generations – no matter where family members are living.
Findings reveal too that families can still act and interact as families even while living separately in different regions or other countries.
In New Zealand a variety of definitions of family are used in policy research. One example is what’s found under the Child, Young Persons, and Their Families Act (1989). This definition acknowledges both legal and functional relationships and tries to incorporate cultural differences. This definition states that:
“A family group including an extended family, in which there is at least one adult member with whom a child or another adult member has a biological or legal relationship; or to whom the child or other adult member has a significant psychological attachment; or that is the child’s or other adult member’s Whānau or other culturally-recognised group”
A FAMILY OF NATIONS
From the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 to the time New Zealand, as an independent country, opened wider its doors to immigrants from other countries in the 1970s, it has moved irreversibly from being a bicultural society to a multicultural one.
For over 130 years, New Zealand sought to people itself with ‘kith and kin’ from the United Kingdom. In the years since then, a remarkable change has occurred that is slowly transforming its culture and values.
The 1990s were particularly significant in New Zea-land immigration history. Foreign-born migrants came in large numbers, and from new places of origin.
Apart from some refugees, these newcomers were not the poor and struggling masses that the United States of America once welcomed to its shores, but rather, educated and comparatively wealthy peo-ple. Their numbers allowed them to cluster to-gether in their own suburbs, especially around Auckland, and to establish their own churches, schools, restaurants and social rituals.
By living together they became more visible. But not surprisingly, there was some adverse and exclusionary political response to these developments.
Since the 1970s, some think that the emphasis on the Treaty has caused divisions in a country once famous for its positive race relations. Others, in-cluding many Māori, argue that it is precisely because the Treaty was ignored for 130 years that divisions occurred. But more importantly, there has been dialogue.
If both Māori and Pākehā had at times talked past one another in the later part of the 20th century, they were at least facing the issues. People in New Zealand today should only worry if the talking ends.
A NATION OF FAMILIES
The recent push toward ‘multiculturalism’ indicates that the inclusion of new cultural elements is only going to increase. The list of links below reveals some information about who now are the people of New Zealand:
The Peoples of New Zealand
JUST ONE GENERATION AWAY
On a macro scale, New Zealand is increasingly becoming a family of nations. But what is more significant is that this transformation has a greater potential.
In that respect, Faith in Families submits that New Zealand today is but a mere one generation away from becoming a great nation and one where it can finally claim instead to be, a un-ited nation of families celebrating its diversity and ethnicity. But let’s ask ourselves first, what makes great a nation?
MEASURES OF GREATNESS
A country can only become great if its people, born out of a mixed cultural heritage and living in an environment of freedom and a democratic space that holds hope for other cultures, can dream and not feel confined to a life that one was or is born into.
Many would argue too that a nation becomes great when it takes care of its poor, its sick, the elderly, disabled and its underprivileged.
Great becomes a nation that does not take from the poor and give to the rich.
Great becomes a nation that secures its future through healthcare, justice and equal opportunity devoid of prejudice or discrimination and one that does not undermine its citizen’s constitutional rights.
Great is the nation whose political leaders are God-fearing, morally upright, fair and righteous, and whose citizens can democratically elect a govern-ment without fear of cheating and vote-tampering for there are no slaves where there are no tyrants.
Great becomes a nation that invests in its children and their families and provides sufficient monies for every child to receive a world-class educa-tion.
And very great is the nation who seeks peace not war.