Push For First Nations Children’s Commissioner Grows, With Prominent NZ Visit


New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner will visit Darwin later this year amid a growing push for Australia to appoint its own Commissioner to oversee the welfare of, and government interactions with, Australia’s First Nations children.

SNAICC’23 – the 10th National Conference for the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care – will be held in Darwin in early September. It’s by far the largest event of its kind on the annual calendar, with more than 1,000 people expected to attend.

One of those will be Judge Frances Eivers, a Ngāti Maniapoto woman from Waikato and a passionate advocate for First Nations children.

A former family court judge and criminal lawyer, Judge Eivers has held the role of New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner since November 2021. She believes it is important to have powerful champions for Indigenous children and has been outspoken about closing care and protection units and improving conditions for children in care.

“My vision as Children’s Commissioner has always been ‘kia kuru pounamu te rongo – that all children live their best lives,’” Judge Eivers said. “I’m sure that’s a vision that all Indigenous people aspire to, and I look forward to sharing some of the ways I have advocated for our mokopuna in Aotearoa.

“I’m especially interested to learn more about the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people and the call for a First Nations Commissioner to serve them.

“This has been about calling for… Māori approaches to caring for children, within the context of their close and wider family groups. Integral to this work is listening to and amplifying the voices of young people.”

Judge Eivers has served as Children’s Commissioner of New Zealand since 2021. From July 1, the model expands to include a Board of up to six Commissioners, on which Judge Eivers will serve. Before being appointed Commissioner, she was a Judge in the District Court in Manukau, working extensively with mokopuna (children) in the court system. Judge Eivers has worked as a lawyer in Auckland, Whakatāne, London and Tauranga.

Chair of SNAICC and prominent human rights advocate, Muriel Bamblett.

SNAICC Chairperson, Muriel Bamblett said New Zealand’s experience had a great deal of relevance to Australia.

“We are excited to connect with such a passionate advocate for First Nations children and families. We look forward to sharing ideas and finding out more about what Australia can learn from New Zealand’s experience,” Ms Bamblett said.

SNAICC CEO, Catherine Liddle emphasised how valuable Judge Eivers’ insights will be for finding a way forward toward establishing a National Commissioner to address the needs of Indigenous children.

“SNAICC and our supporters have been calling for the establishment of a National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People for several years,” Ms Liddle said.

“We believe that a National Commissioner dedicated to advancing the rights of our children will be instrumental in the effort to end the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage in our communities and promote better outcomes for future generations.”

SNAICC’23 will be held at the Darwin Convention Centre in Garramilla/Darwin on the lands of the Larrakia people from September 5-7 September 2023. There will be more than 100 concurrent sessions from more than 100 organisations featuring a range of presentations, panel discussions, yarning circles and workshops. You can find out more about SNAICC’23 here.

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.