The aim of National Families Week 2015 is to celebrate the vital role that families play in Australian society. The 2015 theme is ‘Stronger Families, Stronger Communities’.
This year’s theme highlights the important role families play as the central building block of our communities and that community wellbeing is enhanced by family wellbeing.
National Families Week is a time to celebrate with your family, make contact with your extended family and friends, and share in the enjoyment of family activities within the wider community. It is a time to celebrate the meaning of family and to make the most of family life. Let’s take the time to reflect on the critical role that families play in teaching, supporting and nurturing children, especially as they grow.
Each year, tens of thousands of people and hundreds of organisations celebrate National Families Week – Australia’s annual celebration of families. In 2014, over 130,000 people participated in National Families Week registered events around Australia, illustrating the importance of families within the community.
For more information on Families Week events in your state or territory, please visit the Families Australia website.
The Play Your Part Awards seek to recognise individuals, communities and organisations from each State and Territory that have played their part to prevent child abuse and neglect through promoting the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in Australia.
Nominations for the 2015 Play Your Part Awards are now open! Follow this link for more information and to download nomination forms.
The Youth for Change conference is proudly hosted by CREATE Foundation, the peak consumer body representing the voices of children and young people in out-of-home care. CREATE provides programs and services to create a better life for children and young people in care. The Youth for Change conference will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from the 2nd – 4th October 2015 and is open to all children and young people in care in Australia. The conference will also be open to and appealing for carers, government officials and those working in the sector.
The overall purpose of Youth for Change: creating a better future, is to provide an international forum for young people with a care experience to learn and grow, build self-confidence, and to connect with their peers and those working within the system. The collective aim is to enhance community awareness and to reduce the stigma associated with children and young people with a care experience and to provide them with an avenue to feel empowered, informed, and to have a say and be heard.
For more information or to register your place, please visit http://youthforchange.create.org.au/
For more information on Safer Internet Day go to www.saferinternetday.org
We are pleased to release NAPCAN’s newest resource Ways to support and encourage a child’s right to speak and be heard. To see and download the full brochure, visit our Resource Hub and select the NAPCAN Brochures icon. This resource is currently available online only.
By Leah Bromfield, University of South Australia
The tragic death of four-year old Chloe Valentine in South Australia has raised concerns that the state’s child protection system is in crisis. Following a history of abuse and neglect, Chloe’s mother and her partner repeatedly put Chloe on a 50-kilogram motorbike and filmed her crashing into objects. She later died of her injuries.
During the first two weeks of evidence in the inquest into her death, we heard Chloe was the subject of more than 20 notifications to child protection. It also identified that resources constrained SA Child Protection Services’ capacity to investigate allegations during that period. One witness estimated under-resourcing meant he “ordered no action on up to 30 similar notifications per week”.
The issue of resourcing constraints is by no means unique to South Australia. In 2013, a Victorian whistleblower argued that increased awareness of the risks of domestic violence to children had seen reports from police and courts increase from approximately ten per week to 15 per day. The experienced practitioner reportedly said:
Whilst it’s a good thing that the community and other services are reporting more to us, we just don’t have the capacity to respond to the demand and we’re not coping.
In New South Wales, the Ombudsman reported that child protection officers were conducting face-to-face assessments for only 28% of reports where a child was alleged to be “at risk of significant harm”.
Nationally, only 36% of investigations were completed within 30 days and a further 26% were still not completed after 90 days.
How did this situation arise? Are Australian child protection services being starved of vital resources? Or is the incidence of child maltreatment increasing at an alarming rate?
The rise in demand for child protection services can be traced, at least in part, to a global shift in the breadth and scope of what constitutes child abuse and neglect.
Modern child protection services originated in the 1960s in response to Henry Kempe and colleagues’ seminal paper The Battered-Child Syndrome. Child protection services were established to respond to serious physical abuse, such as multiple fractures and bleeding on the brain.
The problem was considered to be small in scope and the established response was one of detection by professional reporters, investigation and child removal.
A combination of advances in research, changes in social values, and breaking of taboos has resulted in an expansion over time in the types of maltreatment acknowledged and a decrease in the threshold for what constitutes abuse or neglect.
The remit of child protection now includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and exposure to domestic violence. The threshold for what constitutes maltreatment includes outcomes such as bruising, developmental delay and psychological harm.
This broadening of the scope of child protection services has been gradual, and occurred without a fundamental reappraisal of the assumptions on which child protection services were established.
The failure to fundamentally rethink the approach to child protection would be analogous to the health sector having continued to rely on intrusive and expensive hospital treatment as its primary response to smoking – despite the accumulating discoveries of smoking-related diseases.
The result: a system ill-designed to respond to the nature and scope of the contemporary problem of child maltreatment.
The most commonly verified types of maltreatment are emotional abuse (largely attributable to exposure to domestic violence) and neglect, which combined comprise 66% of all substantiations.
Has the incidence of child maltreatment increased at a rate so rapid that child protection services cannot keep up? The truth is we don’t know. Australia, unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, has not conducted a national community-based child maltreatment prevalence or incidence study.
The absence of such a study represents a critical evidence gap. Without it we have no reliable way of evaluating the extent to which maltreatment reported to authorities reflect the actual incidence of the problem nor can we evaluate the effectiveness of policy and practice reforms in reducing child maltreatment.
Are child protection services under-resourced to respond to the growing population of children in need of protection? This is the wrong question. We should instead be asking whether we are making the best possible investment to protect our nation’s most vulnerable children, now and into the future.
Statutory child protection services are the remit of one department within state and territory governments. However, the mandate of these services is to respond to a problem only after it has occurred.
Australian governments need to embrace the lessons learnt in the reduction and treatment of preventable disease. The protection of children requires substantial new investment in prevention. The strategies for prevention need to be broad and integrated, and must include:
Critical to the success of any prevention efforts is the need to draw on international evidence and to ensure that any new investments are based on those interventions that have already proven to be successful.
Australian child protection services are in crisis and struggling to cope with unsustainable demand. However, the solution to reducing demand lies outside of these embattled agencies. If we fail to fundamentally rethink our approach to protecting children, it is the child victims of abuse and neglect who will ultimately pay the price.
This is the first part of The Conversation’s series on Child Protection in Australia. Click on the links below to read the other instalments:
Associate Professor Leah Bromfield is an employee of the Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia. The Centre’s research is funded by state, territory and Commonwealth Governments, non-government agencies, philanthropy and the Australian Research Council. A/Prof Bromfield is currently seconded part-time to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The ideas put forward in this article are expanded upon in the paper Contemporary issues in child protection intake, referral and family support (Bromfield, Arney & Higgins, 2014).
We would like to acknowledge the great array of people all over the Territory who provided such diverse and meaningful activities for children to share their voices and be heard.
See the links below to reflect on the events during Darwin Children’s Week.
CHILDREN’S WEEK: 18 – 26 OCTOBER
This year we are celebrating Children’s Week with the theme taken from the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child Article 12:
“You have the right to speak and be heard”
Children’s Week is an annual event celebrated in Australia during the fourth week in October. A diverse range of events and activities are organised at National, State and Local levels. These focus the attention of the wider community on children, their needs and achievements.
NAPCAN would like to invite people in the Northern Territory to participate in Children’s Week by providing an activity, workshop or entertainment for children in your community around this year’s theme.
A range of resources are available, which highlight ways in which we can show children they are being heard and to support children to speak, participate and make decisions.
The United Nations Convention on the rights of the child and child’s right to speak posters are available (hard copy) for organisations to display. The official Children’s Week poster provides a space for your local events to be advertised.
For support and ideas for Children’s Week 2014 and to register your event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To download the Children’s Week poster on which you can advertise your event, please click here.
Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews has applauded the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) for its work in striving for child safety and wellbeing.
Mr Andrews has used an event for National Child Protection Week to thank NAPCAN for encouraging government, politicians, families and the community to work together to address child safety in their own neighbourhoods.
“As a nation, we need to take a stand on behalf of children who are harmed by violence, abuse and neglect,” he said.
“Effective community engagement is important if we are to tackle this scourge and National Child Protection Week is a significant part of our efforts towards this goal.”
NAPCAN established National Child Protection Week (7-13 September) in 1993 to promote child wellbeing and safety as a community responsibility and raise awareness about child abuse and neglect.
NAPCAN’s motto “protecting children is everyone’s business” is also a key objective of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.
Mr Andrews said NAPCAN has been a strong supporter of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children and has worked hard to strengthen community awareness of this important issue.
“I am pleased my Department is continuing to support NAPCAN in this role,” he said.
“It’s been estimated that the annual cost of child abuse in Australia was $4 billion in 2007 and my department’s research shows that Australia would save $5.4 billion per annum as a result of improved family functioning.
“Strong family relationships and an empowered civil society, gives us the best chance to prevent problems before they occur and to intervene early to stop them from worsening.
“To this end, the Government’s focus will remain on how we can further strengthen family relationships and parenting skills and work with civil society.”
Link to the Ministers press release here
The 2014 National Child Protection Week campaign was launched at an afternoon tea hosted by Their Excellencies, Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove. The week officially commences on Sunday 7th September and runs until Saturday 13th September. NAPCAN acknowledges the Governor General’s leadership in supporting this campaign.
“It is our absolute responsibility to nurture and care for our children. We must protect and encourage them, and we must do all we can to ensure their happiness and wellbeing as they grow and learn. This is why I passionately support the work of NAPCAN and today I am pleased to join with them in raising awareness of National Child Protection Week,” said Sir Peter Cosgrove.
At the event the Governor General presented two of the national NAPCAN Play Your Part Awards to White Ribbon Australia for their Breaking the Silence Schools program and Wollongong City Council for their Child Friendly Cities Initiative. The rest of the Play Your Part Awards will be presented at events organised nationally in each State and Territory over the next week.
National Child Protection Week aims to educate Australians about the many ways in which they can share ideas to create positive change, whether it is through participating in an organised initiative, hosting an event in the local community, or simply being someone who listens to children.