From the CEO’s Desk: Child Protection a Perennial Issue, and Not Just One for the Pollies

This week is National Child Protection Week (September 3-9), a time of year when the community takes time out to reflect on how we can improve our child protection system in order to achieve better long-term outcomes for our nation’s children.

As we all know, there is nothing more critical than protecting children from abuse and neglect. And while National Child Protection Week has a vital role to play in generating much needed awareness around this often confronting and complex issue, the focus on child protection should never be restricted to an annual date on our calendars. Nor should the issue of child wellbeing be viewed solely through a child protection lens. To do so only limits the wider intent required if we are to ‘raise the bar’ on all the elements that affect the health, wellbeing and safety of children.

NAPCAN, the peak body co-ordinating National Child Protection Week, is spot on in saying we ALL have a part to play in preventing child abuse and neglect. Protecting children is a responsibility we all need to shoulder; from family members, friends and the neighbour next door, through to our State and Federal politicians.

To focus on our politicians for a moment, it was extremely heartening to see issues relating to child safety and wellbeing capture some much-needed political spotlight when Community Services Ministers from around the nation met in Darwin recently, where there was consensus that more needs to be done in this area. According to a communiqué released by Minister for Social Services Christian Porter, the Ministers agreed more effort needs to be directed into two key areas: permanency reform for children and young people; and improving early intervention investment for children and families.

While these are both laudable policy aspirations, the devil as they say is in the detail. In many instances the inconsistency of policy directions within and across government departments actively work against achieving these goals. Income support and housing availability and affordability are but two examples of where policy, if not designed with vulnerable children and families at front of mind, will actively mitigate against achieving the goals outlined in the Minister’s communiqué.

Another particularly pleasing outcome from this Darwin meeting was the commitment given by the Ministers to the Third Action Plan of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children. Nevertheless, it would be good to see tangible resources accompanying that affirmation. It is important that momentum be ramped up in this regard.

As most of those in our sector can attest, working on the frontline with vulnerable children and families can be extremely challenging. Indeed, it takes a special kind of person to do this kind of work. So in closing, I take this opportunity to pay special tribute to the dedicated individuals and organisations who are helping every day to make a difference to those most in need. ACWA deeply appreciates that the safety and wellbeing of children and young people is, and always will be, a priority for our sector.

Visit NAPCAN’s webiste to find out how you can get involved in National Child Protection Week.