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.”
View National Child Protection Week 2013 events held in your State or Territory here.
View Queensland Child Protection Week 2013 website event listings
On 30 April 2009, the Council of Australian Governments endorsed the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020, an ambitious and long-term agenda to improve the safety and wellbeing of Australia’s children.
The First Action Plan 2009–2012 laid a firm foundation for the National Framework by building the evidence base for future actions to protect children and families at-risk. Over the life of the Plan, we made significant achievements across a large number of priority projects, including the establishment of the first National Children’s Commissioner and the development of National Standards for out-of-home care. These achievements would not have been possible without strong collaborative work between governments at all levels and the non-government sector.
The Second Action Plan 2012–2015 was developed through close collaboration between the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, and the Coalition of Organisations Committed to the Safety and Wellbeing of Australia’s Children. This approach reflects the National Framework’s key message that ‘protecting children is everyone’s business’ and has been a critical element of the success achieved under the National Framework to date.
The critical focus of the Second Action Plan is ‘working together’ across governments and non-government sectors to improve the safety and wellbeing of Australia’s children. This will be achieved by strengthening families, early intervention, prevention and collaboration through joining up service delivery with mental health, domestic and family violence, drug and alcohol, education, health and other services. This work will be progressed within the child protection system as well as across other sectors, including those that are not traditionally thought of as child centred.
The Second Action Plan will also emphasise the development of local partnerships for local solutions, recognizing that a ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work across Australia’s diverse communities and that Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse families and communities need strategies that are sensitive to their needs and circumstances.
Some of the actions outlined in the priorities will require commitment by the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and the non-government sector. Others will require action by the Commonwealth or by individual State and Territory governments. As a result of local priorities and reforms occurring in the child protection and broader service systems not all actions will be progressed by jurisdictions in the same way and at the same time.
Building on the strong partnerships and achievements of the First Action Plan, we are confident that the Second Action Plan will significantly advance us towards our goal of ensuring that Australia’s children grow up safe and well.
Great article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Anne Hollonds who is the chief executive of the Benevolent Society.
Last week I found myself reading the harrowing account of a day in the life of a Family and Community Services caseworker in the Herald. I only made it to ”10am” before I had to stop. The memories of my time as a front-line child protection worker came flooding back.
I did that job for four years in the 1980s – and then moved on to work as a child and family counsellor in community health and in non-government organisations, and eventually in the management of these services.
Those early years spent in frontline child protection have left their mark, and I am passionate about promoting the well-being of children and families, especially those most vulnerable because of disadvantage.
Everyone agrees that more needs to be done to protect children at risk of serious harm, but so far in the recent debate in NSW no one has asked: Why are there 60,000 children in our community whose lives are so dangerous at home that they need child protection services to monitor them?
National Child Protection Week highlights ongoing national tragedy
On the eve of National Child Protection Week (1-7 September), Families Australia has called for vastly more effort to make protecting children everyone’s business.
Applauding NAPCAN’s outstanding leadership in running National Child Protection Week for over 20 years, Families Australia’s CEO and Convenor of the Coalition of Organisations Committed to the Safety and Wellbeing of Australia’s Children, Brian Babington, said ‘child abuse and neglect continues to be one of the nation’s most serious problems.’
Nationally, over the 12 months to June 2012, the number of children who were the subject of abuse or neglect substantiations increased from 31,527 to 37,781.
‘The over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the child protection system remains particularly serious. In 2011–12, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were almost eight times as likely to be the subject of substantiated child abuse and neglect as non-Indigenous children.’
The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children is a major advance. Yet, greater effort by all parties—governments, the NGO sector and the community at large—is needed to achieve a substantial reduction in rates of abuse and neglect.
More is needed to tackle the underlying causes of child abuse and neglect, particularly in responding early to the needs of families and children who are experiencing vulnerability.
In its 2013 Federal election proposals, Families Australia calls on all Australian political parties to prioritise the needs of families and individuals experiencing vulnerability and marginalisation.
Families Australia CEO Brian Babington today said that many Australian families continue to struggle. In this election campaign, we urge politicians to give special attention to helping families who face multiple and complex problems, such as substance abuse, mental illness and family violence.
Read the full policy proposal document here.
See Families Australia’s press release here.
The National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, believes that children and young people are experts in their own lives and so, before she can work out what needs to be done, she needs to ask the experts!
As Commissioner, it is important for Megan to listen to and to speak with children and young people, and the adults who work with and for them, about the rights of children and young people in Australia. The Big Banter is her way of making this happen across Australia.
She will be asking children and young people directly what they think her priorities as Commissioner should be. She’ll also be getting their advice on what they think is the best way of making sure that she continues to hear from children and young people on a regular basis.
Megan met with the NAPCAN staff and many other Peak Bodies and organisations that work with children and young people. Photographed, from L to R: Nancy Jeffrey (NT Manager Save The Children), Ellen Poyner (Senior Project Officer/Trainer NAPCAN), Megan Mitchell (National Children’s Commissioner), Trista Cocker (Senior Project Officer/Trainer NAPCAN), Jane Wilson (Operations Manaer SAF,T), Amanda Markwell (Development Officer, SAF,T), Christine Gardiner (our young Roving Reporter), Lesley Taylor (Manager NT NAPCAN), and Sandy Hyde (friend of NAPCAN).