Ian Hassall

Ian Hassall

Ian Hassall is a New Zealand paediatrician and children's advocate. He was New Zealand's first Commissioner for Children from 1989 to 1994. His career has entailed working for children and their families as clinician, strategist, researcher and advocate.

Since 2002 he has been Senior Researcher at the Institute of Public Policy (IPP) at AUT University in Auckland. With Emma Davies and Kirsten Hanna he undertakes research and advocates for attitudes, processes and structures that advance children's interests. He is part of the Every Child Counts campaign to place children's interests at the centre of government. He teaches the undergraduate paper, Children and Public Policy.


After gaining his medical and specialist qualifications, M.B. (Otago), D.C.H. (London) and F.R.A.C.P. (Auckland), Hassall worked as a paediatrician at the Auckland, St Helens and Karitane Hospitals and at the Mangere Health Centre. He became interested in the health problems associated with disadvantage and in the increasingly evident problem of child maltreatment. In 1974 he was a founder of the Child Abuse Prevention Society (Parent Help) which publicised family violence and its prevention and set up a helpline for parents who were afraid they might harm their children.

In 1978 Hassall was appointed Deputy Medical Director of the Plunket Society to help develop a project that brought a higher level of service and support to South Auckland, which was then widely seen as a disadvantaged area. Notable additional projects in which he took a leading role were, the 'Stamp Out Measles', 'Fencing of Swimming Pools'and Plunket-in-Neighbourhoods' campaigns. He was a member of the research team led by Professor Ed Mitchell which provided the first convincing evidence that prone lying was a major risk factor for Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), formerly known as SIDS or cot death.

With David Geddis, Plunket's Medical Director, he was a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. They helped develop the 1989 Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act which adopted a radical, family-centred approach to the secondary prevention of child maltreatment.

In 1989 Hassall was appointed Commissioner for Children. His five-year term saw the establishment of the role as an independent public advocate for children, based initially on the Norwegian model.

Following his term as Commissioner, Hassall continued in public and private roles as a children's advocate convening, with Robin Fancourt and Claire Hurst, the 12th International Congress in Auckland in 1998 of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN). In 1998-9 he was international fellow at the Chapin Hall Center for Children, University of Chicago.

He was a founder with Robin Fancourt, Judy Bailey and Lesley Max of the BrainWave Trust which lobbies policy-makers on behalf of children. With Jocelyn Cowern, Allan Barber and Andrew Davidson he formed the Kids Help Foundation Trust which operates the 'What's Up' national helpline for children and young people. He is chair of the child advocacy group, Children's Agenda.

In 2001 Hassall began work with the Domestic Violence Centre (now Preventing Violence in the Home) as tutor and health sector manager and in 2002 he joined the Institute of Public Policy.

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