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Massey Magazine Issue 13 November 2002

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Cindy Kiro new Children’s Commissioner
Cindy Kiro new Children’s Commissioner

Dr Cindy Kiro leaves her position as Director of the University’s Waiora Centre for Public Health Research to take up a new post as Commissioner for Children. She will return in five years’ time to settle it firmly back on her head.

Currently the Centre Director and an associate professor, Dr Kiro will leave in September to start the high-profile position. Replacing Roger McClay, Dr Kiro (Ngapuhi, Ngati Kahu, Ngati Hine) is the fourth, and first female, commissioner to take on the complicated role as advocate for the nation’s children, a task she feels more than ready to tackle.

“Since my high school days I have worked, in little and large ways, to make children’s lives better. This position will give me further opportunity to do the things I consider most important, and to identify and investigate areas that adversely affect young people.”

Considering the nature of the work before her, Dr Kiro acknowledges a necessary blend of hard-nosed compassion. “Philanthropy will always be an important part of our work, but we also need to come to the party, to strive for serious investment in communities, to gather and concentrate forces.”

As Commissioner, Dr Kiro will react and comment upon public cases concerning the welfare of children, but intends to focus her work to create a greater cohesion between government organisations, voluntary and community groups, iwi organisations and business.

“There is enormous good will among New Zealand business to help children, not just with negative issues but to enhance the good things, to act as mentors and benefactors. I intend to push this opportunity, to encourage and inform business of the impact they can make.”

Dr Kiro says the quiet and crucial work of the nation’s network of volunteers also needs to be concentrated, and brought into line with the work of the Ministry of Social Development and national government organisations. “There is a huge amount of expertise out there. Amazing people are doing voluntary work – economists, community workers, teachers and nurses. They have an enormous amount of energy and information.”

A seasoned volunteer, Dr Kiro has been a primary school trustee, a counsellor, has worked on the Waitakere City Council’s Wellbeing programme, has been a regional planner for a network of Mäori women’s refuges and has contributed to the development of Kura Kaupapa Mäori with Hoani Waititi Marae.

She is married with two sons, and believes that parents and caregivers have the foremost responsibility for their children’s well-being. “I think it is tougher for parents these days. I’ve juggled work, study and a relationship, I understand the practicalities of parenthood, the stress, the things that happen and have learnt how to organise life around children, to be responsible and nurturing.”

Once a front-line social worker at the old Princess Mary Hospital, Dr Kiro has seen some of the worst types of human behaviour, relying on her training to react in a professional manner. She understands a visceral reaction to shocking events, and will take this experience through to her role as Commissioner, often the media’s first contact in cases involving children.

Dr Kiro has applied her expertise to the Wairoa Centre’s research focus on children and young people, public policy, public health, and Mäori development since becoming the Director in 2002. She holds a PhD in Social Policy, an MBA (Exec) in Business Administration, and a current Certificate of Competency in Social Work Practice.

She has held senior management positions with the Auckland District Health Board from 2000-2002 and was a senior lecturer in Social Policy at the Albany campus from 1995-2000, specialising in health policy, child advocacy and Mäori development. She has gained considerable governance experience through membership of government boards including the Public Health Advisory Committee, the National Health Committee, the Casino Control Authority, the Mäori Health Research Committee and the Child Policy Reference Group responsible for the Ministry of Social Development’s Agenda for Children.

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