The findings of the Children, Communities and Social Capital Research Report will be launched today by Megan Mitchell, the National Children’s Commissioner, at the International Symposium on Children and Communities in Canberra.
Excessive use of alcohol, aggressive drivers and the threat of violence make children feel unsafe in their communities, the study from the Australian National University and University of Western Sydney has found.
The report – Putting the pieces in place: Children, communities and social capital in Australia – is based on research with more than 100 children in six communities in eastern Australia.
It found safety was an important issue for children and was most acute for those living in disadvantaged areas, where children were less likely to feel safe in their neighbourhoods.
But it found the use and abuse of alcohol was the single issue highlighted consistently by children as the issue that made them feel unsafe.
“For many of the children, experiences of adult aggression and violence associated with alcohol and cars posed an on-going threat to their sense of security and everyday safety,” said Dr Sharon Bessell from the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, who led the research with Emeritus Professor Jan Mason of University of Western Sydney.
“The Children were acutely aware that adults become highly unpredictable when drunk, and this made them feel vulnerable.
“These feelings of vulnerability were particularly acute at disadvantaged sites where the majority of children had witnessed drunken behaviour in public places.”
The study examined what children thought about their communities and what the children would like to change.
The findings paint the most detailed picture yet of how decisions taken by adults impact the lives and feelings of the youngest members of the community.
Other issues highlighted by the children include:
• The importance of a good physical environments including proper footpaths and areas free of litter, alcohol and cigarette smoke;
• Feeling disconnected from the adults in their communities because of long working hours and financial pressures on parents;
• ‘Adult solutions’ are not always solutions for children. An example was the provision of children’s rooms in many clubs and venues. A significant proportion of children found these rooms boring and exclusionary, something to be endured while the adults had fun.
The project was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant and carried out in collaboration with The Benevolent Society and NAPCAN.
A copy of the full report is available here
When: Thursday 13 March & Friday 14 March 2014 9am – 5pm
Where: Springbank Room Level 1, JG Crawford Building 132, Lennox Crossing, ANU, Canberra
This event is free and open to the public.
Although children are thought to benefit from strong communities, we know very little about their views on what makes a community strong and supportive. The symposium aims to provide an answer to this question as well as discussing the place and roles of children within Australian communities.
Organised by Children’s Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University (ANU), the symposium will present the findings of the Children, Communities and Social Capital research which explored what children (aged 8-12) think about their communities, how they experience ‘community’ on a daily basis and what vision they have for their communities. The findings of this research project, undertaken in partnership with the Australian National University (ANU), The University of Western Sydney (UWS), The Benevolent Society and NAPCAN, will be formally launched at the symposium by the the National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell.
The lead researchers of Children, Communities and Social Capital, Dr Sharon Bessell from ANU and Emeritus Professor Jan Mason from UWS, will be speaking at the event, as well as many other prominent researchers from Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Germany.
For a full list of symposium speakers and to find out more, download the flyer by clicking here.
To register for the symposium, please click here.
NAPCAN’s Angela Walsh with Bowraville preschoolers. The preschool receives support from UBS Optimus Foundation which ensures children are safe and ready for their future.
Article by Damon Kitney printed in The Weekend Australian, September 21, 2013:
THE plush 16th-floor offices of Sydney’s Chifley Tower, home to the Australian headquarters of investment bank UBS, boast stunning views of Sydney Harbour.
There, some of the nation’s most powerful bankers wine and dine the elite of corporate Australia with five-star cuisine and do deals that transform the business world.
They are a world away from the tiny town of Bowraville.
The picturesque community in the NSW mid-north coast hinterland, midway between Coffs Harbour and Kempsey, may have a pretty main street with its grand old pub, restored stone courthouse building and a fine chocolates shop.
Yet the pleasant facade has long masked a deep darkness. Bowraville has been renowned in official statistics as the fourth most poverty-stricken town in NSW, where vandalism and alcohol and substance abuse are rife in the community. The town also was the site of the Bowraville murders, a series of killings between 1990 and 1991, when three local Aboriginal children were abducted and murdered.
The initials UBS mean nothing to most of the locals or those in the Aboriginal mission on the outskirts of the town.
But at the local Central School and preschool, they now represent a lifeline.
The UBS Optimus Foundation is the little-known philanthropic arm of the global investment bank. It is a charitable grant-making foundation funded by its clients and dedicated to ensuring children around the world are healthy, safe and ready for their future.
For many years, in true Swiss-style, it has quietly flown under the radar.
It first had links with Australia in 2006 when UBS partnered with the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect in its Kids Can National Awards, awarding a $25,000 grant for the Love Bites program that educates young people on sex, consent, power and control in the relationships.
Two years later UBS Optimus forged a partnership with NAPCAN to protect children from violence and sexual abuse, including backing the Growing Respect and Respectful Relationships programs that work alongside communities to strengthen their capacity to support children and young people to have healthy and respectful relationships.
The children at Bowraville preschool and the town’s Central School are now part of those programs, which have extended to 130 sites across Australia
Forty per cent of the children at the Bowraville preschool are indigenous.
To NAPCAN’s general manager of programming, evaluation and growing respect, Angela Walsh, the support and the impact it is having has meant some are now giving Bowraville a new name: “Bowradice”.
“It has been very easy for us to work with both the pre-school and the school because Bowraville is such a partnership community and people do work together because it is the right thing to do. In relation to the “Respectful Relationships” program, we have always had a vision it should start in pre-school.
“If you can have consistent language from kinder through schooling, you have the building blocks of respectful relationships.”
The school’s principal, Malcolm Mcfarlane, says he is confident the program is changing Bowraville from the town a Nine Network 60 Minutes documentary described in 2009 as the place young people were desperate to leave. “Like any community there is a limit to what improvement will be created organically here. But the families are involved now. My belief is that when you have families understanding what is happening within the school and they know that they are a part of that, it is not a case of the children talking about just school talk. It is reinforcement and it feeds off itself,” he says.
Jackie Bradshaw, a director at the pre-school who has worked there for three years and watched it double in size over the past two, says the funding from UBS Optimus — through NAPCAN — has been vital. “The backing is essential because you are constantly looking for your next grant to be able to continue to build on to your program.”
She claims the fact the program is engaging the whole community means it will be successful.
NAPCAN has also been backed previously by the CAGES Foundation, a philanthropic group set up in 2009 by the Salteri family to fund initiatives that work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families both at home and in pre-school spheres.
“We came in with the surety of knowing NAPCAN had the partnership with UBS and that it had been through the Optimus evaluation process,” said the foundation’s executive officer Rachel Kerry, who was formerly with Perpetual.
UBS Australia separately supports a range of philanthropic programs including a five-year partnership with the Nura Gili Centre for Indigenous Programs at the University of NSW.
But the NAPCAN-UBS Optimus partnership, now worth more than $1.5 million over six years, forms part of a major Asia-Pacific push by the bank’s philanthropic arm: 45 of the 127 projects it supports globally are in Asia.
In May, Optimus opened a regional office in Hong Kong to spearhead and expand its operations in the Asia-Pacific, using it to nurture interest from Asian families seeking philanthropic opportunities that focus on improving the lives and the potential of children.
“We’ve been looking at Hong Kong for a long time. Hong Kong has had enormous wealth growth and we are finding that a huge part of what clients are asking for, they are very interested in this issue,” says Zurich-based Optimus chief executive Phyllis Costanza.
“In particular, the awareness of social issues is very high, because people in Asia are living with an enormous wealth divide. They see poverty everyday.”
She says right now is an exciting time to be in the China region because the philanthropic landscape is changing dramatically.
“The older generation is still doing traditional philanthropy — giving back to the communities they grew up in and focusing on charities. But the younger generation want to take a much more business-like approach to philanthropy — not only philanthropy in general but funding social entrepreneurs,” Costanza says.
She says the younger generation in families is more international in their outlook and prepared to fund a wider array of things.
“Not just tools like social entrepreneurs, but other areas not necessarily in their communities, like job generation, the environment. And they are keen to know whether their money is going to have an impact.”
But rather than dividing families, she says the changes are uniting them.
“Often parents come to us and say, ‘I really want to get my child engaged in something we can do as a family’. So they have their son or daughter work directly with the Optimus Foundation to develop a project together,” Costanza says.
“It is fascinating the way it is used as a way to help engage the next generation.”
Earlier this year researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, the University of Queensland and Hunan Institute of Parasitic Diseases received 1.5 million Swiss francs from Optimus to expand their “Magic Glasses” education campaign into rural China. The program centres on a cartoon DVD promoting hygiene, featuring a small child who puts on “magic glasses” that can suddenly see worm eggs and larvae in bright colours.
Optimus is now looking at options for partners in mainland China and in Singapore.
It is also working with NAPCAN on a partnership in Thailand with the long-established Mercy Centre, which works to help the children and communities in the slums of Bangkok.
Optimus has funded an innovation project for 12 months, which is creating a child protection curriculum and programming for primary and preschools in the bustling Thai capital.
Angela Walsh believes it is only the beginning of what is to come in the region. “Historically Optimus ran out of Zurich. It was very Zurich-centric. But Optimus have now set up their office in Hong Kong. And I think there will be stronger regional links,” she says.
“I would hope that we will start to build those relationships across Southeast Asia. They are keen to take the work we are doing in Bangkok to Cambodia and other countries.”
John Elferink, NT Minister for Children and Families, Launches Childrens Week in the NT.
CELEBRATING CHILDREN’S WEEK AND THE RIGHT TO PLAY
18 October 2013
Minister for Children and Families John Elferink today helped kick-off Children’s Week celebrations at the official launch.
This year’s Darwin launch host was Maddison Cocker, aged 12, who also hosted the event last year. Children’s Week runs from 19 to 27 October.
The week is a national event to celebrate the right of children to enjoy childhood and is a time for children to demonstrate their talents, skills and abilities.
Mr Elferink said the theme for Children’s Week this year is taken from the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child Article 31: ‘The right to play and participate freely in cultural life and the arts’.
“As part of this focus, NAPCAN NT has encouraged organisations across the Territory to talk with children about their favourite play activity and to then share this information with parents and communities,” Mr Elferink said.
“Children are the future and we must provide them with the opportunity to be nurtured and grow.
“All children have a right to a safe and happy childhood, regardless of race, colour, sex, ability, religion, nationality or social origin.
“The Country Liberals Government will support families to see children grow in a positive environment – now and into the future.
“Children and their families are invited to attend a wide range of events and activities held throughout the week.
“This is a time of celebration and I encourage everybody to get involved.”
The full lists of Children’s Week events across the Northern Territory can be found at: http://napcan.org.au/news/
Danielle Lede 0404 515 414
Children’s Week is an annual event celebrated in Australia during the fourth week in October. In 1996 it was decided to adopt a permanent theme: “A Caring World Shares” as a reflection of Children’s Week aims while at the same time acknowledging the designated year on national posters and other printed materials.
Children’s Week celebrates the right of children to enjoy childhood. It is also a time for children to demonstrate their talents, skills and abilities. For more information please visit the Childrens Week website here
Please register your local Northern Territory event here and NAPCAN will publish it from our website www.napcan.org.au via a link to go here.
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The Children’s Week logo may only be used in association with Children’s Week activities and events coordinated by each state or territories official committee. Cases falling outside these specifications require permission from their state or territory body. Please see here for more information on use of the Logo.
NAPCAN’s highly successful community service video which has been viewed over 10,000,000 times on youtube across a number of NAPCAN and partners accounts.
Photo: Professor Geoff Woolcock speaking at NT NCPW 2013 Breakfast.
Thought provoking interview of Lesley Taylor, NAPCAN NT, Geoff Woolcock, associate professor in urban research at Griffith University, and Dr Howard Bath, NT Children’s Commissioner. Interview by Neda Vanovac, AAP.
Child abuse in Australia should be viewed the same way as smoking – as a primary health problem with huge ramifications, a child protection advocate says.
Lesley Taylor, the Northern Territory manager of the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN), says Australia is too reliant on child protection services to flag when children are in trouble.
“What we want to have ultimately is no more child protection at all,” she told AAP, saying that investments should be made in community-based programs.
“(Protection) services are needed, but should be very small systems for those families whose needs can’t be met by their own community,” she says.
This week is Child Protection Week, and advocates are hoping to make people aware that child safety is everyone’s responsibility, be it in a city, the suburbs or a remote town.
And yet the numbers are climbing: nationally, over the year to June 2012, the number of children subjected to abuse or neglect increased from 31,527 to 37,781.
Ms Taylor says investing in family support and parenting programs rather than policing would dramatically shift Australian society.
“Affordable childcare is one of the most potentially powerful things we could provide to families,” she says.
“Child protection systems are failing in every state, in every country.”
The negative results of child abuse are “extraordinary” she says, with far further-reaching impacts than political parties will admit.
“Look how we took on smoking: we’ve put pressure onto public health systems, so let’s view child protection in the same model, as a primary health issue.”
And a health issue it is: a generation of kids raised on junk food and a lack of outdoor play will result in some dying early from preventable lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, says Geoff Woolcock, associate professor in urban research at Griffith University.
“All indications are that this generation will not outlive its parents – this ought to be a wake-up call,” he says.
The statistics around domestic violence and child abuse in the Territory are shocking, says the NT’s Children’s Commissioner, Dr Howard Bath.
He points to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures that show Aboriginal women have 80 times the risk of being hospitalised for assaults.
In the last counting period to 2010, there were 27 non-indigenous women and 842 Aboriginal women hospitalised for assault in the five hospitals across the NT in a one-year period.
“A lot of it has to do with the sheer overwhelming conditions,” Dr Bath says.
“It’s overcrowded, there’s a lack of employment opportunities, boredom, and when you add alcohol you get a very volatile mixture. (It’s) a tragedy unfolding for women and children.”
However, the news isn’t all bad.
Although the NT has by far the worst child wellbeing indicators of any jurisdiction, “we are seeing for the first time some encouraging trends around child wellbeing as a result of the huge investment,” Dr Bath says.
“It’s a very slow process because you’re talking about parents carrying the wounds of trauma with them into the next generation. You’re talking about something that can’t just turn around very quickly.”
But he says that the first two waves of the Australian Early Development Index, from 2009 and 2012, show that NT kids at age five are improving in their capacity to socially relate, along with better physical and social health and cognitive abilities.
The index, based on information collected on 96.5 per cent of Australian children in their first year of formal full-time school, showed that between the two test periods the number of developmentally vulnerable indigenous children dropped from almost half to just over 40 per cent.
The Index’s report also found that the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are developmentally on track.
But even though the majority are doing well, they are still more than twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable than non-indigenous children.
“We’re seeing marked improvement over the last three years of wellbeing of Aboriginal kids, so there are some glimmers of hope,” Dr Bath said.
Article by Ken Lay September 4, 2013:
I want you all to imagine something with me. Imagine that each week an Australian is murdered at a train station.
That each week, someone’s brother or sister; mother or father is violently killed getting on or off a train. Picture it?
Now picture the public response.
It would be a front-page news story in each of our capital cities. Police would flood our stations, while people would avoid public transport in favour of private cars. Congestion would quickly become a major problem, as the number of cars on the roads increased. The word “crisis” would pepper our talkback.
Can you imagine it?
Now I have another figure — a real figure — that I think is just as horrific. A figure that is just as worthy of galvanising our sympathy and outrage. But it doesn’t.
The figure is this: every week a woman is murdered by her partner or ex-partner.
Every week this happens.
Now, our public response isn’t at all like we imagined it would be if those victims died not in their family rooms but at train stations.
ThinkUKnow Partners: From the left, Ann Statham, Datacom Australia; Paul DeAraujo Head of Citizenship, Microsoft Australia, Dr Jenny Cartwright, Coordinator Strategic Initiatives, AFP, Megan Mitchell, National Children’s Commissioner, Federal Agent James Braithwaite, Cyber Crime Prevention, AFP.
ThinkUKnow, a partnership between the AFP, Microsoft and Datacom, that is an Internet safety program delivering interactive training to children, parents, carers and teachers through schools and organisations across Australia which is helping to bridge the gap between the tech-savvy Gen Y and their parents.
Program Coordinator, Dr Jenny Cartwright, received NAPCAN’s Play Your Part award on behalf of the initiative yesterday, during a breakfast event hosted by NAPCAN at UBS Australia in Sydney. NAPCAN CEO, Richard Cooke, who attended the event, said the protection of children from online risks requires more attention considering how accessible the Internet is for young users. “It is exceedingly important to create safer communities for Australian children and in recognising the contribution initiatives like ThinkUKnow makes in helping to make safer communities both on and offline,” said Mr Cooke. “National Child Protection Week is about engaging the community to raise awareness about how we can better protect children. Virtual interactions can produce real-life risks so it is essential that parents understand how kids are using online programs.” Chief Security Advisor of Microsoft Australia James Kavanagh said he is pleased to see the ThinkUKnow partnership and the dedicated volunteers recognised for their hard work over the past few years. “Almost every night of the week, ThinkUKnow volunteers travel to schools and workplaces across Australia,” Mr Kavanah said. “They help parents understand a range of online issues and how best to ensure their children can learn and interact safely online. The award recognises the enthusiasm of parents and the dedication of over 260 volunteers.”