COMMENT:

Last night I posted what I considered a jovial remark about Greta Thunberg on my private social media account.

I thought it was funny. I suggested the 16-year-old environmental activist learn to play "the quiet game".

The comments in response to the post were mixed - some people agreed, but others raised a valid point about my attack of a child who is using her voice, and using it with volume and passion to try and effect crucial change in the world.

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On reflection, my post was wrong.

It wasn't funny. It was, effectively, an adult belittling a child. It wasn't cool.

But let me explain why the global response to Greta has got my back up.

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg addresses the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations General Assembly. Photo / file
Environmental activist Greta Thunberg addresses the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations General Assembly. Photo / file

Climate change is a huge and very real issue for us all.

But there are other issues in our society that, in my opinion, are just as important - yet most people don't want to know about.

New Zealand has the worst rates of child abuse and domestic violence in the developed world.

The. Worst.

On average in our country, nine children and babies die at the hands of another person each year.

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So far in 2019 the homicide toll for under 14s is 10 - that's more than one dead baby, child and young person each month.

And that figure will only increase in the remaining three months of the year.

On top of that, every four minutes police are called about someone being harmed in their own home - usually by an intimate partner or close family member.

I have been writing about this stuff for almost 15 years and routinely, at least weekly, get told "oh I couldn't read your story about that dead baby, it was just too sad".

Or "I don't understand why that woman didn't just leave".

Unlike climate change, people don't want to know about child and domestic abuse because it's too grim, the details are too dark, it's too hard for them to digest.

Grave of murdered twins Chris Arepa Kahui and Cru Omeka Kahui at the Mangere Lawn Cemetery. Photo / file
Grave of murdered twins Chris Arepa Kahui and Cru Omeka Kahui at the Mangere Lawn Cemetery. Photo / file

Mostly, these issues don't affect them personally so they toss them right into the back of the too hard basket.

It frustrates the hell out of me on a normal day.

So when the entire world jumps on the Greta Thunberg bandwagon - you can imagine how disheartening it is for people trying to shine light on other important issues that are affecting real people every day.

Every bloody four minutes even.

Greta is an absolute champion for her cause.

I admire her passion, her heart, her confidence - and her ability to get the world talking and understanding something that is so important.

Climate change is something we should all fear, understand and fight.

But it's not the only thing we need to stand up against.

I just wish that there was a Greta out there who would speak up for those being harmed and killed behind the closed doors of their own homes.

Malcolm Robert Bell died from suspected non-accidental injuries on 29 June 2019. A man has been charged with murder. Photo / supplied
Malcolm Robert Bell died from suspected non-accidental injuries on 29 June 2019. A man has been charged with murder. Photo / supplied

I wish there was a Greta who would cry for babies like Malcolm Bell - allegedly murdered in his home earlier this year - and the little boy in Northland who was just 5 months old when his own mother allegedly killed him.

I wish there was a Greta who was screaming the names of the little lives lost - Jyniah Te Awa, Moko Rangitoheriri, Nia Glassie, Chris and Cru Kahui, JJ Lawrence, Staranise Waru and the dozens of others who have passed as a result of violence - from the rooftops and getting people to care.

I wish there was a Greta who was going viral talking about New Zealand's biggest social problem - family harm - drumming the horrific stats into people's heads and making them realise that, like climate change, it is also a significant issue for each and every one of us.

Mocking Greta was wrong and misplaced and I won't be doing it again.

But I implore you all to think hard about other issues real Kiwis are facing every day, and do what you can to make a difference in your own backyard too.

- Anna Leask is the Herald's senior crime and justice reporter

DO YOU NEED HELP?

If you're in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz