Latest research
Latest research

What Makes a Good Life?

Most children and young people say they are experiencing wellbeing, but some are facing significant challenges.

Published on
26 Feb 2019
good life


This report was a collaboration between the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) and the Voices of Children and Young People team at Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children, supported by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The Voices of Children team – within the Tamariki Advocate business group – engages with children and young people to ensure that the work of Oranga Tamariki is informed by an understanding of the experiences and aspirations of children and young people, particularly Māori.

The project was carried out in October and November 2018 and engaged with more than 6000 children and young people.

  • 5607 children and young people completed an online survey 
  • 423 were spoken with face to face through a series of focus groups and interviews in 19 towns and cities across New Zealand.

To be accepted. To be understood and taken seriously. It’s important because it gives you confidence in your uniqueness.

Young person from Whangarei

Key findings

Children and young people told us what wellbeing means to them.

To children and young people, a good life is one where they can feel accepted, valued and respected, be happy, have the support of family and friends, have their basic needs met, enjoy good physical and mental health, have a good education and feel safe.

Most children and young people say they are experiencing wellbeing, but some are facing significant challenges.

A majority of children and young people told us that they are doing well, but up to a third are facing challenges in some areas of their life, and one in ten are facing multiple challenges. Around 2% of children are facing major challenges in multiple areas of their lives. The challenges children and young people are facing include racism, bullying, discrimination, judgement, violence, drugs and a feeling of continually being let down.

Overall, we learned that change is needed to support children and young people’s wellbeing.

  • Change is needed. Almost everyone who shared their views, including those who said that they were doing well, could point to something that needed to change if all children and young people are to have a good life.
  • Family and whānau are crucial. Children and young people told us that families must be well in order for children to be well, and families must be involved in making things better
  • Providing the basics is important, but not enough on its own. Intrinsic things such as feeling accepted, valued and respected are just as important as material needs. Children and young people want more than just a minimum standard of living.
  • Children and young people have valuable insights. Government initiatives should respond to children and young people’s needs, wants and aspirations. Listening to children and young people’s views regularly and meaningfully is the best way to achieve this.