Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is mourning the passing of Dr Sir Ian Hassall, New Zealand’s first Children’s Commissioner and lifelong champion for children and children’s health.
As a paediatrician Sir Ian contributed to a major world-first cot death study that has been directly credited with reducing cot deaths in New Zealand and abroad, and initiated a successful campaign to reduce the drowning rate of children at home.
“It was a privilege to know Sir Ian. He was truly a humble man who dedicated his life’s work to the betterment of children,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“His contribution to the lives of children in New Zealand is unparalleled. His ground-breaking research into cot death saved many lives and his work both as a paediatrician and advocate on child abuse helped bring the issue to the attention of the nation.
“Sir Ian both inspired me and provided advice on my work on child wellbeing issues. He was always there to provide guidance, and all in the name of improving the lives of children.
“He will be greatly missed. My thoughts are with Lady Jenny and their family at this very sad time,” Jacinda Ardern said.
Sir Ian was responsible for medical oversight of the nationwide network of Plunket/Karitane Family units and established the Child Abuse Prevention Society (Parent Help) in 1977.
He was appointed as the first Commissioner for Children in 1989 and has been a member of a number of ministerial advisory committees on various issues affecting children.
He helped set up the national children’s phone counselling service ‘What’s Up’, and was a Trustee of its governance board the Kids Helpline Trust until 2008.
He was involved in the formation of Every Child Counts, which aims to include children’s interests in the processes of government. In the early 1990s Dr Hassall promoted the establishment of a Children’s Day, with the project being picked up by Rotary leading to the first New Zealand Children’s Day celebrated in 2000.