As we celebrate the diversity of our new front-liners within the Cabinet, the Five to Thrive collective - four of New Zealand's leading children's organisations - is looking forward to what this new Government will deliver for tamariki and rangatahi.
Now we know who will lead each of the key portfolios aligned to our challenges for children, here are a few things we are looking for from our new ministers over the next three years:
Jacinda Ardern – Minister for Child Poverty Reduction
Family poverty was a controversial issue throughout the election campaign, with Labour and National debating what Stats NZ deemed "statistically insignificant" changes to the Child Poverty Measures. The previous Government laid important foundations in legislation to mandate future governments to lift children and families out of poverty, namely the Child Poverty Reduction Act and the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy.
What we need now is for these tools to be put fully into action to change the underlying systems that contribute to growing inequality and make poverty a reality for whānau in Aotearoa. The fact we have a Prime Minister who is taking the lead on reducing poverty affecting families is arguably once-in-a-lifetime. She now has an unquestionable mandate to make significant advances in this space.
Grant Robertson – Minister of Finance
Robertson has already delivered two Wellbeing Budgets, breaking new ground in New Zealand and for much of the world. Increased investment in children could mean increasing the amount of the Best Start payment or extending it to all children under 5 years of age.
Early Childhood Education is another area that has been calling for much greater financial support.
Investing in the wellbeing of children is paramount if we are to see a positive shift in poor outcomes for our tamariki. Investing in children's early years has the potential to positively affect a child's entire life trajectory.
Carmel Sepuloni – Minister of Social Development
Sepuloni met with Five to Thrive prior to the election. We pushed for a clear roadmap identifying which of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group's recommendations will be implemented, when and how.
Lifting incomes is the essential starting point to getting things right for children and families, so vague promises about how (or whether) we will see the welfare system reformed in the next three years won't be enough.
Kelvin Davis – Minister for Children
Davis' responsibilities will include Oranga Tamariki. The big promise we are looking to from Labour's manifesto is that a Labour Government will "ensure Oranga Tamariki partner with iwi, hapū and Māori organisations to find appropriate solutions for children in need".
What we need to see this promise translate into is trust and investment from Oranga Tamariki into the systems of support already in place for whānau Māori to keep pēpē within their whānau groups.
A joined-up approach with the new Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, Marama Davidson, will be essential to support all families and whānau to be safe places.
Megan Woods – Minister of Housing
The Labour Manifesto talks about "ensuring every New Zealander has a warm, dry home". The Prime Minister admitted recently that the portfolio has not seen the progress it needed to see under Phil Twyford.
If the new Government delivers on the promises in the manifesto to build public housing, expand on Healthy Homes, improve renting conditions and support progressive home ownership, we hope we will see a substantial reduction in the number of children living in precarious and unhealthy conditions.
Our Five to Thrive collective is also pleased to see the establishment of an Associate Minister of Housing (Homelessness), to drive change on a problem affecting families and rangatahi living in poverty.
Andrew Little – Minister of Health
Although the Covid-19 response will be a central pillar of the health portfolio over the next three years, we're hoping this won't take the spotlight off of the pressing issues in health care, particularly for Māori, people with disabilities, and in mental health.
Some promising commitments that we will hold Government to account on include greater support for new mothers; greater and more accessible healthcare for children and new parents; working with tangata whenua to establish a Māori Health Authority; more mental health support in schools; and a programme of work to improve care and support for people with disabilities.
As we have heard repeatedly over the past three weeks, Labour has been given the mandate to govern alone. The Labour Manifesto holds some promising commitments as well as some noticeable gaps around how the Government will use that mandate for children.
Seeing progress on areas that get the basics right for all children is crucial. We will be watching the new Cabinet closely in its first 100 days for clarity about how these promises will be implemented and if we will see children prioritised as we continue to "build-back-better".
• Dr Claire Achmad is general manager advocacy, Barnardos NZ. Five to Thrive is a coalition of four major children's organisation: Barnardos NZ, Save the Children, Te Kāhui Mana Ririki and Whānau Āwhina Plunket.