More than a quarter of Kiwi kids say children’s right to be safe and protected isn’t being upheld in New Zealand, identifying protection from violence, abuse and murder as the most lacking.


New Zealand children’s voices have joined thousands of others from around the world in the fifth annual Small Voices Big Dreams Survey – one of the most comprehensive polls of children's views in the world, undertaken by ChildFund Alliance.


Download the full Small Voices, Big Dreams report, visit to view a video of children sending a message to world leaders or contact ChildFund for more information and NZ-specific statistics.

This year 6,040 children aged 10 to 12 years in 44 countries across the globe, including 614 Kiwis, were asked for their views on child rights, recognising the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.


New Zealand children’s views match closely with those of their international peers. Twenty-seven per cent of Kiwi kids identify protection rights as not being met in their home country compared to 26 per cent of children in developed countries and 36 per cent in developing countries. Only children in developing countries put rights concerning development and learning, such as access to education, ahead of protection rights by just 2 per cent.


A staggering 43 per cent of New Zealand respondents also say children here are only being protected from being hurt or mistreated sometimes, if ever (rarely or never), coming in just slightly better than the total global respondent finding of 53 per cent.


“These results tell us one simple thing – our children don’t feel as safe and protected as they should. Whether they fear for themselves or for their peers, whether they live just down the road or on the other side of the world, and irrespective of whether the threat is domestic violence or child exploitation, they are all telling us the same horrifying thing,” says Chief Executive of ChildFund New Zealand Paul Brown.


He says that more than two decades on from world governments ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, these distressing findings reinforce the importance of letting small voices be heard.


“Children understand far more than we might give them credit for and they can offer new insights on what we need to consider. Listening to children and working to ensure we are providing the right solutions is something that underpins every aspect of ChildFund New Zealand’s work in communities around the world.”


Dear World Leaders… what our kids would do if they were John Key

While one in five Kiwi kids say their opinion is rarely or never heard and taken seriously, the Small Voices Big Dreams survey gave them a unique opportunity to share their views and solutions around child rights issues, asking them what they would do as leader of their country.


Demonstrating a mature awareness of the world around them, top of the To Do List for New Zealand kids is providing for children’s basic survival rights such as food, clothing and shelter (39 per cent), closely followed by providing better protection against violence (24 per cent).  A further 19 per cent say improving education and learning technologies is a critical task for the country.


Aspiring Kiwi Prime Ministers suggested policies like:

  • More programmes to identify and stop child abuse and bullying, including cyber bullying, and harsher penalties for those found guilty
  • Creating more job opportunities and raising wages
  • Lowering prices or removing taxes from items like healthy food and housing insulation
  • Giving every school a cafeteria and a computer room
  • Allowing children 14 years old and older to vote


Similar to Kiwis, children across the developed world put safety and security well on top, while children in the developing world prioritised education.


“Children in developing countries put a much greater value on education because it offers a way out of extreme poverty. Unfortunately while it is still denied to many, it is a right that children in wealthier countries often take for granted. It’s a difference in opinion that has been reflected in past years’ survey results,” says Paul.


However, meeting children’s protection rights through improved safety and security measures features as the first or second priority for kids across the globe, regardless of their origin, and again highlights the issue as a key one for leaders everywhere.


“Most disturbing remains the worldwide concern of children that they are not being protected from harm. While this is disproportionately higher in developing countries, it is clearly a fear shared by children everywhere and one that world leaders need to address with urgency.”


Recognising the need for coordinated action at both a national and international level, the ChildFund Alliance is inviting signatures to the Free from Violence petition at The petition is part of a global advocacy campaign asking governments to ensure that children are free from violence and exploitation; including those who are right now deciding what the global priorities will be when the Millennium Develop Goals conclude next year. Currently these goals do not include targets for keeping children safe from harm.




What do child rights mean to children?

  • Over half of children globally (52%) associate child rights with access to education and opportunities to develop. This is followed by protection rights (27%), including safety from violence and abuse; and survival rights (27%), such as food, water, shelter and healthcare.
  • New Zealand children are most likely to define child rights in terms of education and development rights (37%) and survival rights (35%).


Child rights not being upheld

  • The most common response from children globally is that rights to protection are not being upheld (32%), followed by development rights (28%), survival rights (20%) and participation rights (15%).
  • New Zealand children also name protection rights (27%), followed by survival rights (22%) as not being upheld.


The right to give your opinion, and for adults to take it seriously

  • Only 11% of children globally say children have a right to give their opinion, and for adults to take it seriously, in their country all the time.
  • In developed countries, only 3% of children say the right to give their opinion is never available for children, in comparison to 11% of their peers in developing countries.
  • Only 5% of New Zealand children say they can always give their own opinion and be taken seriously, while 20% say this rarely or never happens.


The right to be protected from being hurt or mistreated, in body or mind.

  • One-quarter of children in developing countries (24%) say they are rarely or never protected from physical or psychological mistreatment, compared to 11% cent of children in developed countries.
  • Almost two-thirds of children in Mali (60%) and almost half in Liberia (49%) and Guatemala (46%) say they are rarely or never protected from harm or mistreatment, compared to only 2% in Canada and 4% cent in Ireland, or 13% in New Zealand.


The right to be protected from harmful work

  • One in five children globally say they are rarely or never protected from doing work that is bad for their health and education.
  • Children in Ireland (85%), Sweden (84%) and Japan (81%) are most likely to say they are often or always protected from undertaking work that harms their health or wellbeing. 64% of New Zealand children shared this view.


As leaders of their country

  • As leaders of their country, almost 40% of children globally would improve education and learning opportunities for other children. This was followed by increasing safety and security (24%) and providing food, clothing and shelter (20%).
  • In Cambodia (80%), Nepal (73%), India and Sri Lanka (72%), children overwhelmingly name education as the priority issue if they were leader. Strengthening infrastructure, such as roads, schools and hospitals, would be a top priority for children in Afghanistan (46%), in comparison to 4% of children globally.
  • New Zealand children prioritised survival rights such as providing food, clothing and shelter (29%) and protection rights (24%).


Download the full report, visit to view a video of children sending a message to world leaders or contact ChildFund for more information and NZ-specific statistics.

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