Conference to Shine a Light on Child Protection as NSW Peak Marks 60-Year Milestone

One of NSW’s oldest child and family welfare peaks, the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA), will mark 60 years of advocacy during its 19th national conference next week.

Around 700 child and family welfare experts, human services workers and researchers will converge on Sydney for the three-day event, which opens at Sydney’s International Convention Centre on August 20.

Co-hosted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW), ACWA 2018 will present the latest in child and family welfare research and examine policies and practices that are improving the lives of vulnerable children, young people and families.

ACWA CEO Andrew McCallum said the line-up of internationally acclaimed keynotes and the rich array of papers to be presented at the national gathering epitomise the desire and prevailing sense of determination within the sector to ensure children and young people who come into contact with the child protection system are given every support and opportunity to thrive.

“Coming off the back of a significant Royal Commission, our conference will certainly give us pause for thought about the direction of child protection in Australia and how we want to be judged in the future,” Mr McCallum said.

“Business as usual is not acceptable.”

ACWA was established in 1958 with the objectives of supporting non-government agencies and improving the quality of services to children and young people who need to live away from their families.

At the present time, when advocacy and the interrogation of social policy has never been more important, the role of ACWA remains as crucial as ever according to Mr McCallum.

“While we have seen a remarkable level of reform in the child protection landscape over the past decades, much remains the same,” he said.

“Poverty and disadvantage are still the underlying factors that drive child protection, and the reason behind the exponential growth we are seeing in the number of children entering out-of-home care.

“Until we have a system that is focused on tackling these wider social challenges rather than on treating the symptoms this will be the case for decades to come.”

The theme of ACWA 2018 is: Doing better for our children and families: Innovate, lead, change, with international keynotes to include:

  • Dr Jenny Driscoll (King’s College London) will speak about the rights of children in the child protection system.
  • Dr Carmel Devaney (National University of Ireland) will discuss the magnitude of prevention and early intervention in child protection.
  • Professor Karen Broadhurst (Lancaster University) will share details of the critical factors that led to a major change in child and family welfare policy and practice in the UK.
  • Professor Harriet Ward (Loughborough University) will explore the role of adoption as part of a continuum of services for abused and neglected children and their families.
  • Professor John Simmonds (CoramBAAF) will speak about what adoption can bring to a child’s life.
  • Dr Leland Ruwhui and Dr Moana Eruera (Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Children) will examine New Zealand’s emerging culturally responsive child welfare approach to meeting the needs of Maori children.
  • Professor Nina Biehal (University of York) will explore the concept of what ‘permanence’ means for children.
  • Professor Diana English (University of Washington) will share her insights into the critical importance of assessment in delivering best outcomes for children, young people and families.

Other guest speakers will include Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward, who will carry out the opening formalities, as well as NSW Advocate for Children and Young People Andrew Johnson and UNSW Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Dean Professor Susan Dodds.

DOWNLOAD the full conference program

ACWA is the NSW peak body representing non-government organisations that provide services to vulnerable children, young people and their families.

Media Contact: Libby McCalman 0418 659 525