Merepeka Raukawa-Tait: Appalling record for child safety

By Merepeka Raukawa-Tait

I hope Ashlee Shorrock of Waimarama is recovering well from her injuries.

She is the little 6-year-old girl who suffered bad head injuries in a quad bike accident on January 3. What a horrible way to start to the New Year.

The accident was entirely preventable.

So I would not be as generous as Ashlee's grandmother who doesn't blame the little girl's father. The accident happened in the early hours of the morning. There were four adults on the bike with the young girl, including her father.

Alcohol had been consumed during the evening. Being a parent means as the adult you have to be constantly on the look out to ensure the safety of your children. You have to try to anticipate where danger, or the potential for danger, could be lurking. You certainly shouldn't contribute to it.

The father in this case is a loving, caring person, and a good dad, according to the grandmother. That's as may be but he dropped the ball in this instance. His daughter is in hospital with injuries sustained from a quad bike accident he could have prevented.

He caused his daughter's injuries and should now be thankful he didn't contribute to her death. As for the other adults, they are old enough to take their own chances and dice with death.

The grandmother's stance is one I can't understand. Why protect the father from hearing the truth - that he was extremely irresponsible. He has something to learn about himself as a result of his stupidity. In these situations there are always lessons.

This applies to all the adults riding the quad bike that night. There has to be accountability for such actions. We can no longer be eternally tolerant. Intolerance is just as important when used to protect the lives of New Zealand children.

We have an appalling track record around our inconsistent approach to child safety.

Our children get killed in driveways, they drown, they are allowed to ride quad bikes as if they were the same as ordinary bikes and then we have our appalling child abuse statistics.

Children die in New Zealand because some parents are not vigilant. They don't see care and protection of children as one of the most important jobs they'll ever have.

There is no excuse for not caring enough to make sure they remain safe at all times.

We all have to try harder.

We know that children will often wander away, take off down the street and sometimes demand to "go too" when grown ups are on the move.

Our job is to firmly, but with love, say no. Explain why they can't go and need to stay put. We can get worn down with their constant requests and pleading but it's not our job to crumble. We have to realise what's at stake.

By saying "I don't blame my son in law" the grandmother of Ashlee is effectively saying they were just "all in the wrong place at the wrong time". That is not true. Someone made the call to get on the quad bike and travel the short distance home, a trip that had been made many times. Someone decided that four adults would be OK on the bike.

Someone decided that the young girl should make the trip too and sit up front. Someone obviously thought the amount of alcohol consumed was not enough to cause any alarm.

We know that tragic accidents do unfortunately happen to children.

But our job as parents and adults is not to cause them.

When we excuse "lack of thinking and irresponsible behaviour" we are saying to New Zealand children "we don't care enough for your well being for there to be any consequences when we are at fault and you get hurt". I believe in this instance the police should not dither about. The father should be charged with parental neglect.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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