September 25, 2009
James Ritchie died on Thursday morning. He was the father of the movement to end violence toward children in New Zealand. His public advocacy for repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 stretches back through the years to the submission he and Jane Ritchie made to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Violent Offending in 1978 and forward to their contribution to the campaign for the Bill that eventually changed the law in 2007.
James and Jane were pioneer researchers of the lives of families and children in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific. Their books, “Child-rearing patterns in New Zealand”, “Growing up in New Zealand” and “Growing up in Polynesia” published respectively in 1970, 1978 and 1979 are landmarks in both social science and popular literature.
Their sense of justice, their understanding of what makes healthy, successful societies and their compassion drove them to expose and repudiate the undercurrent of violence in the lives of New Zealanders that their research had revealed. Their 1981 book, “Spare the rod” was a rational and passionate argument for ending the physical punishment of children. This was a theme in their subsequent books, “Violence in New Zealand”, published in 1990 and “The next generation: child-rearing in New Zealand” published in 1997.
James Ritchie had an influential place in both Maori and Pakeha cultures. He was a respected advisor to Tainui and the Kahui Ariki and an academic leader at the University of Waikato. His experiences and his understanding were incorporated into his 1992 book, “Becoming bicultural”.
The Yes Vote coalition is relatively new but the movement against legalised violence to children is much older. Its values and its work owe a great deal to James and Jane.
E te rangatira
Haere, haere, haere