November 2, 2009
Last week, Sue Bradford left Parliament. I view her departure with mixed feelings. There is much sadness and regret that she is going, but at the same time I know that she has accomplished more than many MPs ever do and that that she is doing what she feels is right for herself at this time. I speak for many colleagues who wish her well in her new directions. We are confident that Sue will continue to make difference to the lives of New Zealanders in many ways by continuing to champion social justice causes.
I first met Sue soon after she was a new MP. I must have been lobbying her for the repeal of section 59 Crimes Act 1961. She understood the issue and its importance – as a mother, from a social justice perspective and as someone with a deep interest in positive outcomes for New Zealand children. Small wonder then that Sue placed a bill for the repeal of section 59 Crimes Act 1961 in the ballot.
In 2005 her bill was drawn – details about the years of public debate on physical punishment of children and the law that have followed are well known. Sue steadfastly retained her principles on this matter – refusing to agree to compromises that would give children a lesser status than adults in the law. An amended version of her original bill became law in 2007 – with support from most MPs.
Sue has been an inspiring leader on the child discipline law. There have been costs for her particularly living with years of emotionally violent written and verbal attacks from some opponents, resentful of her efforts to reduce violence in the family. Sue, I hope the messages of support, respect and admiration your many NGO colleagues and others have expressed have made up for that pain a little.
Sue has received many accolades for her work on section 59 and promotion of positive forms of discipline. There have been awards from colleagues including Childspace Institute and the Psychological Society.
Internationally the movement to end corporal punishment of children around the world is growing – 24 countries have now taken legal measures to end physical punishment of children. Sue is held in high regard by activists in this movement – some friends have sent messages of appreciation at the time of Sue’s retirement from Parliament.
In her time in Parliament Sue has successfully introduced three member’s bills in the House. Significantly all of these benefit young people – lifting the youth minimum wage to adult rates, extending the length of time some mothers in prison can keep their babies with them and, of course, repealing section 59 Crimes Act 1961.
Sue’s name and reputation as a MP who bravely and energetically promoted the interests of children will remain prominent in New Zealand’s history. Just as in 10 years time most New Zealanders will be proud of the section 59 law change so they will remember Sue’s name and feel grateful for what she achieved.
Go well Sue.
Beth Wood (For EPOCH New Zealand)
Note: For a summary of her career in her own words, you can read Sue’s inspirational valedictory speech.