Such is the nature of the news cycle that stories blare across the front page and lead the TV or radio news, and then, like a meteor, whoosh, they're gone.

A four-month-old baby, being horribly abused and hospitalised with fractures all over her body, was the lead story three days ago. Police were coming up against a brick wall in investigating it because the family involved had closed ranks. Police were seeking support or information from anyone who may be able to help get to the bottom of what had happened.

There was the usual reaction of course, of shock, disgust; talkback heaved for a day, commentators bemoaned how this was becoming a familiar and frustrating story. And then boom, just like that, it was gone.

The news cycle moved on, as it always does. Looking for fresher, newer news.


But Dame Lesley Max, co-founder of the Great Potentials Foundation, made a point about the case that resonated with me.

She said we as a nation aren't making child abuse enough of a priority. She said it is our most predominant concern. That the torment and abuse of our children in this country should not be buried on page five and then off the news cycle. She highlighted how other issues, such as the current sexual harassment in the workplace controversy, seems to grab more headlines and remain newsworthy for longer, and yet our national shame is actually the abuse of our children in the hands of their caregivers.

Dame Lesley Max has been working to put a focus on this matter for 30 years, and I can understand her frustration in trying to highlight it.

It's ugly.

It's a truth no one wants to accept. It's got cultural implications sometimes, it's got socio-economic factors, it's unpalatable.

Even those of us in the news media often feel uncomfortable covering it, especially when you have children of your own. It's upsetting and it's incomprehensible. Fatigue sets in when it becomes a pattern, too - a disturbingly familiar story. But it is a reality, and one we need to face.

Dame Lesley says funding just isn't there to deal with this properly. Too many families are falling between the gaps. She says we're only touching the tip of the iceberg, we're not reaching those who are about to fall off the cliff.

Dame Lesley says it can't always be ascribed to poverty, so we need to dig deeper.


It was only a couple of weeks ago we also had big news in the papers about the worrying statistics around child abuse: one in four children under 17 years old in this country will be the subject of notifications to child protection. But again, that shocking story is no longer in the news.

Our Prime Minister has said that her dream and goal is that no child lives in poverty in New Zealand. It's an honourable intention, but perhaps a more pertinent goal would be that no child dies or is injured or abused at the hands of their caregivers.

Maybe if we can direct the spotlight back onto the ugly truth of our child abuse record, we might be able to save a few more children from being abused at the hands of those they love and trust the most. It should be something that all of us are vested in.