Kids first in a community

Last updated 15:03 08/11/2012

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One of the advantages of getting a little more mature - all right then, a lot older - is that with age comes an ability to see what has worked and what hasn't over a longer time frame, writes Tracy Hicks in Southern Focus.

Let's face it, there is nothing new under the sun. Certainly, communication styles and modes of operation have changed but little else of substance has.

Confirmation of this reality came again for me recently at the launch of the 1000 Days Trust in Southland. The science has improved and the reporting has improved but at the centre of the matter, nothing has changed.

The first 1000 days of a child's life not only shapes that child's future but also the community that child lives in. Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents could have told us the same truth, perhaps without the science but truth nonetheless.

So, if we all know it, why do we as a community and a nation not put more resources into ensuring a child's foundation is cemented in place during that early period? Instead we opt to throw money and resources at teenagers on the wrong trajectory and who are often not likely to change.

I guess, in my mind, the answer to that question comes down to money and political expediency. As a nation, we have become fascinated with knowing where and measuring how every last dollar has been spent, and in most cases, I would say quite rightly so.

However, I think that our fascination with the here-and-now has meant we have lost the ability to invest in the really important places, as opposed to simply dealing with the urgent. Investing in parenting and early child development is a no-brainer but for some reason it always plays second, third or even fourth fiddle behind the urgent social needs - critical issues that have often become urgent because of a lack of investment earlier.

So why is it not seen as sexy or value for money to invest early?

I think it comes down to not being able to measure and present that value on a balance sheet or translate it into a 30-second sound bite on TV. While I am trying not to be cynical, this does reveal a lot about us.

The 1000 Days Trust is a group of professional people interested in making a difference and I wish them all the very best.

Local government in Southland has led the way in attempting to develop a long-term strategy to ensure the very best support is given to parents and young children across the province through the "Our Way Southland" project - ourwaysouthland.org.nz.

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Ironically, this project may be required to change focus if the Government's local government reforms pass through Parliament unchanged. It certainly isn't seen as a sexy or urgent role for local government but it is important. Early intervention and help is always a better solution than funding ambulances at the bottom of the cliff.

The older I get the more obvious it becomes that there are some things in life that are important and much that is not. The real challenge is committing, both as an individual and as a community, to that which is important and in my mind young children trump everything else.

» Tracy Hicks is the Gore district mayor.

- The Southland Times

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