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16 Aug 2016
P1090408-min

Valuing Children Initiative Launch – Speech by Linda Savage

I would like to thank Associate Professor Ted Wilkes for his heartfelt welcome to country. It is particularly meaningful on this occasion, because he is one of the Commissioner for Children and Young People’s Ambassadors.

And I would also like to welcome everyone to the official launch of the Valuing Children Initiative today.

The Valuing Children Initiative is a unique project established in January this year, by Tony Pietropiccolo, the Director of Centrecare and Basil Hanna, CEO of Parkerville Children and Youth Care.

Since then Emma King, the Deputy Convenor and I, have been working to develop its ambitious vision. That vision is to inspire Australians to value all children, promote understanding that a child’s wellbeing is the shared responsibility of the entire community, and ensure children are at the forefront of our considerations.

It is a vision shared by hundreds of organisations, thousands of individuals and all levels of government in Australia who are committed to the wellbeing of children.

Yet despite that commitment, and what we know makes for a healthy, safe and supportive childhood, far too many children, on a diverse range of indicators, are not faring as well as they should be.

Across Australia efforts are ongoing to do better. They include data collection, linking and research, and accelerating its translation into best practice, policy and decision making. Refining service delivery, and using new models such as collective impact. And finding ways to overcome fragmentation and better coordinate state and federal responsibilities.

But running parallel and underpinning this, is also the need to constantly encourage and create the social conditions that best support and nurture all children.

Societal attitudes and the culture of a society, although sometimes forgotten, play a pivotal role in a child’s wellbeing.

This is because attitudes to children, how we value them individually and as a section of society, directly impacts on how we treat them, and the priority we give their needs and rights. This in turn impacts on policy, programs and resources.

Societal attitudes drive change, and expectations about what is acceptable. This is obvious when you reflect on how attitudes have changed to the participation of women in public life, the protection of the environment; and how for example  we view children born to single mothers, and smoking today.

That is why the Valuing Children Initiative believes, that in looking for better outcomes for children, more attention must be given to our attitudes and how we value them.  Children themselves, identify being valued as one of the most important aspects of wellbeing.  And in countries such as Sweden, that measure strongly on child wellbeing indicators, a strong culture of valuing children is an important factor.

There is no doubt attitudes to children have changed enormously over the years, and so correspondingly has our care and treatment of them.

Until the 19th Century children, like women, were the property of husbands and fathers, and not even recognised as a separate legal person. Slowly, over the next century there was growing acceptance of the need for the state to protect children from abuse, neglect and exploitation. By the mid-20th century laws to protect them were becoming commonplace. In the last 50 years the role of the state in protecting children, providing services and acting in their best interests, has been embedded in legislation and policy. Today, not even a parent has the right to beat or abuse a child. And international conventions, most recently the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, have changed the way children are viewed. It is has led to growing acceptance of children as citizens from birth, with individual rights of their own, including the right to be heard, listened to, and have what they want, acted upon.

But legislation, policy and international conventions have never been enough on their own. Societal attitudes are powerful.

Nothing has provided a starker example of this, than the shocking revelations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The truth was that children, the adults who spoke out on their behalf, and even the laws, were no match for the prevailing culture and attitudes of those in positions of power, who chose generally not to believe a child, and put the protection of institutions and adults first. The result was that for decades both institutions, and perpetrators were able to avoid scrutiny.

It is no coincidence then, that the Prime Minister spoke about the need to look at the culture, and prevailing attitudes as part of trying to explain what has happened at the Don Dale Juvenile Justice Centre. And not just in the horrifying treatment of those children, but also the lack of a more urgent response despite the previous reports, media coverage and the many who knew what was occurring.

This should raise uncomfortable questions for everyone, both as individuals and as a society. It is an Australia that we don’t recognise, and yet this has occurred on our watch. It makes it more urgent than ever, to ask how we value all children, not just our own.

Fortunately though, just as prevailing attitudes can be detrimental to children, they can also be beneficial, and demand change as history has shown.

A recent example, has been the decision in the United Kingdom to introduce a sugar levy on soft drinks. At the time the then Chancellor of the Exchequer said;

‘I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation… I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing.’

This marks a significant change not only in what constitutes tax reform, but explicitly prioritises the health and wellbeing of children, before commercial interests. And would know there is now discussion in Australia about the introduction of something comparable.

So what do we know about Australians attitudes to children?

Earlier this year, we commissioned a baseline survey by Essential Research, to get a better understanding of Australians attitudes to children.

This was made possible in part, by the generous contribution of the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Colin Petit. And I would like to thank him for his contribution, as well as his support since the Initiative was established.

Today we are releasing a snapshot of those results.

The survey has been revealing. Usually when Australians have been asked to rank issues of importance, children were not included as an option.

Needless to say we did include children. It was encouraging then, that 86% said looking after the interests of children was important to them. Yet, they still placed the interests of children only ninth out of a list of ten. By comparison looking after the interests of older people ranked 6th. More than 50% said that issues like jobs, and the economy were more important to them than the needs of children.

The survey also asked respondents to choose from 20 words to describe children today. The four most commonly chosen were spoilt, fortunate, lazy and selfish.

This rather harsh characterisation of children, I think, lends weight to the need to do more to portray children in a positive light. It is also very much at odds, with the fact, that more than 17% of all children live below the poverty line, despite Australia being ranked as the seventh wealthiest nation in the world on a GDP per capita basis. It suggests that many Australians, simply do not know the circumstances of a significant number of children in Australia today.

Respondents were also asked whether a child’s word, is less likely to be believed than an adults. It is concerning, that even today, 63% believed that a child’s word is less likely to be believed.

Shortly we will be releasing more results. We hope to undertake further, more comprehensive work to understand attitudes to children, and what drives them. We are hoping to collaborate with others to continue that work.

Many of you will have already received the Valuing Children Initiative Foundation Paper, that outlines the rationale and background to the Initiative. This has formed the basis for meetings and discussions with many people in WA, and with organisations across Australia. Already the language of ‘valuing children’ has begun to be used by organisations, and in public debate. We have also begun collaborating with others, to promote understanding, that how we value children is crucial to their wellbeing. Part of that work will be to engage with the community to encourage a positive focus on all children, and a wave of understanding, to create a compelling picture that a society that is good for children, is good for everyone.

To help ensure children are at the forefront of considerations, we called on political leaders during the federal election, to commit to a number of institutional innovations.

This included the creation of a Ministerial position for Children and Future Generations, as well as the implementation of a rigorous and transparent process to ensure policy, legislative and decision making processes, include the requirement to consider the impact on children today and in the future.

This is needed to ensure children’s needs are always considered, and to counter the tendency for reactive responses and the focus on the short term, which can be particularly damaging for children.

Shortly a letter will be going to all state MPs, asking them to make similar commitments. It would be wonderful to see Western Australia take the lead building in institutional innovation to promote the wellbeing of children.

So these are just some of the ways the VCI is developing its advocacy role, as it tackles its very broad brief.

The helpful and encouraging feedback and support we have received, has been very welcome. Many of you here today have been very generous with your time. I would like to acknowledge and particularly thank Professor Fiona Stanley for her support.

Developing an initiative that is focused on influencing attitudes is challenging. This type of work – work that cannot easily be measured and evaluated, risks being seen as less important. Yet throughout history, it is what we value and believe makes for a good society, that has played a critical role in driving change.

Children are by definition vulnerable. This is not only because of their size and lack of cognitive development, but the authority adults have, and their utter dependence on them.

Acceptance, and admission of past failures, to protect children can subtly suggest that these concerns, are now taken care of, or that better policy and legislation and more inquiries, important as they are, will be enough to bring about permanent change.

This would be a grave mistake. Getting it right for every child now, and in the future, will always depend on the attitudes of the adult world. There is no set and forget when it comes to ensuring the wellbeing of children, not your own child, or any other child.

Organisations such as Centrecare and Parkerville Children and Youth Care, that have for decades provided services for children and their families, report that the complexity and demand for services continues unabated.

Allocating the resources to focus on how we create the social climate that best supports, and nurtures all children, is difficult given the pressing immediate need to provide services, and tight budgets.  For that reason I think that Tony and Basil, and their Boards, should be acknowledged for the leadership they have shown in establishing this Initiative.

In conclusion let me say, my hope is that the work of the Valuing Children Initiative, by encouraging the conversation about how we value children, as well as the specific action we are calling for, will complement and support the work of others committed to the wellbeing of all children.

Thank you for your attendance today and I hope you can stay longer to enjoy the refreshments.

Linda Savage

10 August 2016

16 Aug 2016
Children failed by a society

Children failed by a society that knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

The Valuing Children Initiative believes that the ongoing pattern of failure to protect children risks defining our nation.

Serious allegations of abuse on Nauru, disturbing images of the treatment of children in the Don Dale Juvenile Justice Centre, and the ongoing revelations of institutional child sexual abuse reveal a darker side to life in Australia.

This pattern of failure, driven by a culture of cover ups and crisis driven responses, demands that far more attention must be given to our attitudes to children, and how we value them.

Societal attitudes, although sometimes forgotten, play a pivotal role in ensuring a child’s safety and wellbeing, the Convenor of the VCI Linda Savage said.

At the recent launch of the Valuing Children Initiative Professor Fiona Stanley AC said these are anguishing issues which should not be occurring in Australia today.

‘We need to change the culture in terms of how we value children.’ she said.

Attitudes to children and how we value them, individually and as a section of society, directly impact on how we treat them, and the priority we give their needs and rights. This is turn impacts on policy, programs and resources.

“Nothing had provided a starker example of this than the shocking revelations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.”

“What it has revealed is that children, the laws in place to protect them, and even the adults who spoke out on their behalf, were no match for the prevailing culture and attitudes that was generally not to believe a child and put the protection of institutions and adults first. This enabled perpetrators to resist scrutiny for decades,’

Ms Savage said the crucial role the prevailing culture plays in how children are treated, was noted by Prime Minister Turnbull in his response to the recent Four Corners Program, detailing the abusive treatment of children at the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre.

It played a role not only in what had happened at the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre, but also in the lack of a more urgent response despite two previous reports, media coverage and the many who knew what was occurring.

Ms Savage said this raises uncomfortable questions for Australians, both individually and as a society, because this has happened in Australia today, and on our watch.

Acceptance, and admission of past failures to protect children can subtly suggest that these concerns have now largely been dealt with. This would be a grave mistake. Getting it right for every child now, and in the future will always depend on the attitudes of the adult world, Ms Savage said.

Children’s rights and needs must be made a far greater priority. There is overwhelming evidence that childhood experiences can have a lifelong impact, reverberate in the lives of those around them, and have financial and social consequences for the whole society.

During the federal election the VCI called for the creation of a Ministerial position for Children and Future Generations, as well as the implementation of a rigorous and transparent process to ensure policy, legislative and decision making processes include a requirement to consider the impact on children today and in the future.

Ideally this would be a position held by the Prime Minister, reflecting the primary role of government to protect its citizens and the special responsibility there is for children.

Today despite 29 Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, it is notable that there is no position responsible for children, Ms Savage said.

Media Inquiries

Linda Savage              Convenor                                                                    0409109899

Emma King                Deputy Convenor                                                       0427963392

10 Aug 2016
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What the public thinks

LOOKING AFTER THE INTERESTS OF CHILDREN RANKS ONLY 9TH OUT OF 10 PRIORITIES FOR AUSTRALIANS.

The Valuing Children Initiative Benchmark Survey: 2016 (the survey), has revealed that Australians ranked looking after the interests of children only 9th out of a possible 10 options, in order of importance.

By comparison, looking after the interests of older Australians was ranked sixth in order of importance.

More than 50% said that issues like jobs and the economy were more important to them than the needs of children.

When asked to describe children today the most commonly selected words were spoilt, fortunate, lazy and selfish.

The Convenor of the Valuing Children Initiative, Linda Savage said this harsh characterisation of children today seemed at odds with the reality of life for more than 17% of children living below the poverty line in Australia today.

Notwithstanding the prevalence of negative descriptors, almost half believed it is more challenging to be a child today than when they were children.

Ms Savage said the fifth most commonly selected word was vulnerable. This was supported by the finding that less than one in five believed Australia is a safer place today than when they were growing up.

A snapshot of the survey results are being released today, Ms Savage said, to coincide with the official launch of the Valuing Children Initiative.

Ms Savage said the survey had been done because attitudes to children play an important role in children’s wellbeing, directly impacting on our how we treat children and the priority we give their needs.

“Nothing had provided a starker example of this than the shocking revelations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.”

“What it has revealed is that children, the laws in place to protect them, and even the adults who spoke out on their behalf, were no match for the prevailing culture and attitudes that was generally not to believe a child and put the protection of institution and adults first. This enabled perpetrators to resist scrutiny for decades.’

Ms Savage said the crucial role the prevailing culture played in how children are treated, was noted by Prime Minister Turnbull in his response to the recent Four Corners Program detailing the disturbing treatment of children at the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre.

It played a role in what had occurred at the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre, as well as the lack of a more urgent response despite two previous reports, media coverage and the many who knew what was occurring.

Ms Savage said this raises uncomfortable questions for Australians, both individually and as a society, because this has happened in Australia today, and on our watch.

Professor Fiona Stanley has endorsed the Valuing Children Initiative saying, ‘Never has there been a more important time for this Initiative than today.’

‘We need to change the culture in terms of how we value children,’ she said.

The survey also revealed that 80% of Australians are concerned about the health and happiness of children and future generations. The main reason given was health issues, related to poor diet and lack of exercise.

Ms Savage said that the decision in the UK to impose a sugar levy on soft drinks, specifically to improve children’s health, was an example of changing attitudes that prioritised the health and wellbeing of children before commercial interests.

The Valuing Children Initiative was established by Mr Tony Pietropiccolo, Director of Centrecare and Mr Basil Hanna CEO of Parkerville Children and Youth Care and will be officially launched today.

Data Source
The Valuing Children Initiative Benchmark Survey 2016 is a nationally representative sample of more than a 1000 adults aged 18 years and over. The survey was conducted by Essential Research on behalf of the Valuing Children Initiative.

28 Jul 2016
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The Valuing Children Initiative again calls for the appointment of a national minister for children and future generations following the establishment of a royal commission into juvenile Justice.

The Valuing Children Initiative (VCI) says that one thing we must take from the abhorrent events at the Don Dale Centre, is the Prime Minister’s public acknowledgement that the culture and prevailing attitudes of a society plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children.

VCI Convenor Linda Savage said that questioning underlying assumptions about how we value children in Australia is more urgent than ever following the outcry about the treatment of children at the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre.

How we value children is critical to ensuring the wellbeing and safety of children in Australia and directly impacts on attitudes, action and behaviour towards children.

Nothing has provided a starker contemporary example of this, said Ms Savage, than the shocking revelations of sexual abuse of children by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

It had revealed was that children, the laws in place to protect them, and even the adults who spoke out, were no match for the prevailing culture and attitudes that were generally not to believe a child, put the protection of institutions first and enabled perpetrators to resist scrutiny for decades.

During the recent federal election the VCI had called on the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Greens Leader Richard Di Natale to commit to making children’s’ safety and wellbeing a greater priority through the:

  1. Creation of a Ministerial Portfolio for Children and Future Generations.
  2. The instigation of a rigorous and transparent process to ensure that legislative and decision making processes consider the impact on children and future generations with risk analysis for particularly vulnerable children that is  evaluated and reported on.
  3. The convening of at least one meeting per year of Federal, State and Territory Ministers to discuss policy development across portfolios for children and future generations, and;
  4. the funding of community raising activities to inspire Australians to value all children, understand that a child’s wellbeing is the responsibility of the entire community and ensure children are at the forefront of our considerations.

Ms Savage said the VCI is again calling on party leaders to consider innovative ways to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children is at the forefront of considerations.

Across the world, governments and communities are looking at new ways to ensure children and future generation’s needs and interests are explicitly taken into account, notwithstanding their lack of political or economic influence. Ms Savage cited the work of the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations at Oxford University and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

Mr Tony Pietropiccolo, Director of Centrecare who established the Valuing Children Initiative with Basil Hanna CEO of Parkerville Children and Youth Care, said that Australia’s children are incredibly precious and deserve every opportunity to flourish. Mr Hanna said that this of importance to every single Australian because our children are our nation’s future and should therefore be given the highest priority by our nation’s leaders.

 

Media Inquiries

Linda Savage              Convenor                                                                    0409109899

Emma King                 Assistant Convenor VCI                                             0427963392

14 Jul 2016
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Short Termism – The enemy of Children and Future Generations

The tendency to focus on the short term, and the inability to govern for the future, has been identified by the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations as characterising much of modern politics in democratic countries such as Australia.

Focus on the short term has been identified as damaging to economic reform and efforts to address issues such as climate change. Yet the impact on children, and future generations of children, has received little attention despite the fact that there is only ever one chance at childhood, and that determines so much of a person’s future. In its report ‘Now for the Long Term’, the Oxford Martin Commission has urged decision makers to be innovative, and reinvigorate how institutions work to better serve the needs of those too young to vote, as well as future generations.

Today the evidence is overwhelming that policies that support good maternal health, invest in the early years of life and provide high quality support and services throughout childhood, enable children to thrive, underpin desired wellbeing, health, educational and employment outcomes, and provide a real basis for tackling a range of social problems.

Yet in Australia, a wealthy and sophisticated democracy, the ACOSS ‘Poverty in Australia Report 2014,’ reported that 17.7% of all children live below the poverty line.

Children in Australia are not faring as well as they should be. One in four Australian children are overweight or obese. Today children in countries like Australia are predicted to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to obesity and the chronic diseases that result. The Australian Government’s 2015 report ‘The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents’ reported that one in ten teenagers had engaged in self-harming behaviour. Shockingly, the Australian Human Rights Commission 2015 report, ‘All want is a life free from violence’, estimated that one in 28 children will be first sexually abused by a family member before the age of 15 years.

The Valuing Children Initiative has written to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Greens, urging a moment of unity during the election campaign in the interests of all children and future generations of children, and to counter the tendency to focus on the short term.

It is calling on the country’s political leaders to commit to the creation of a Ministerial portfolio for Children and Future Generations and annual meetings of Federal, State and Territory Ministers to discuss policy development across portfolios for children and future generations.

The Valuing Children Initiative also proposes the establishment of a set of measurable outcomes determined by independent experts that guide policy development, and in consultation with children where appropriate; and the implementation of a rigorous and transparent process to ensure that in all government’s legislative and decision making processes the impact on children and future generations is considered. This process should include the views of children wherever possible, risk analysis for particularly vulnerable children; and be evaluated and reported on.

It is also time to fund community awareness raising activities to inspire Australians to value all children, understand that a child’s wellbeing is the responsibility of the entire community and ensure children are at the forefront of our considerations.

Ensuring children are at the forefront of considerations requires continuity of policy and resources, as well as rethinking attitudes and how institutions work. When children’s needs are prioritised it is reflected in decision making. The United Kingdom recently provided example of this, when in a surprise move, the conservative government introduced a sugar levy on soft drinks specifically to improve children’s health, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying;

‘I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation… I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing.’
This marks a significant change in attitude to tax reform, in part prioritising the best interests of children and future generations, as well as rebalancing immediate interests and returns for the market, against costs in the longer term for the health budget.

Valuing children must be demonstrated at the highest level. Children are powerless to choose the circumstances they are born into, or the childhood they experience. All children must navigate a world they had no part in creating. It is no achievement to be born with greater opportunities, or less challenges in life than someone else. It is the attitudes and decisions of adults, and the cultural norms of the time that determine much of what a child experiences.

Children who thrive have the best chance to become happy, healthy, responsible and contributing members of society. It is hard to imagine what the role of government is, if it is not to ensure all children get that opportunity.
………………………………………………………….
› by Linda Savage, Convenor of the Valuing Children Initiative.

08 Jul 2016
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Valuing Children Initiative supports the recommendation for a minister for children and calls for the inclusion of future generations

The Valuing Children Initiative (VCI) welcomes the recommendation following the release of the CRC25-Australian Child Rights Progress Report for a Minister for Children, which echoes the call the Valuing Children Initiative made recently for a Ministerial Portfolio for Children and Future Generations. (See Media Release of 1 June 2016).

The VCI believes that a Ministerial position must also include Future Generations, to counter and reduce the focus on the short term, and the resulting bias against future generations that can occur simply because they are born tomorrow and not today.

The tendency to focus on the short term characterises much of modern politics, and has been identified as damaging to economic reform as well as efforts to address issues such as climate change. The detrimental impact of short termism on the nation’s children receives far less attention, despite the fact there is only one chance at childhood and this influences so much of a person’s future.
The VCI’s Convenor, Linda Savage, said it was time for decision makers to actively consider the impact of policy decisions on children, young people and future generations. She urged political leaders to heed the voices of children, as well as those who advocate on their behalf during the federal election campaign.

On the 27th of May 2016, The VCI wrote to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Greens Leader Richard Di Natale asking them to commit to:

  1. The creation of a Ministerial portfolio for Children and Future Generations.
  2. The convening of at least one meeting per year of Federal, State and Territory Ministers to discuss policy development across portfolios for children and future generations.
  3. The establishment of a set of measurable outcomes to guide policy development, determined by independent experts, in consultation with children where appropriate.
  4. The instigation of a rigorous and transparent process to ensure that legislative and decision making processes consider the impact on children and future generations. This process should include the views of children whenever possible; risk analysis for particularly vulnerable children; and be evaluated and reported on.
  5. Funding community raising activities to inspire Australians to value all children, understand that a child’s wellbeing is the responsibility of the entire community and ensure children are at the forefront of our considerations.

The VCI is calling on party leaders to put their differences aside, and make this commitment in the interests of children today, as well as future generations of children.

Across the world, governments and communities are looking at new ways to ensure children and future generation’s needs and interests are explicitly taken into account, notwithstanding their lack of political or economic influence. Ms Savage cited the work of the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations at Oxford University and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

Mr Tony Pietropiccolo, Director of Centrecare who established the Valuing Children Initiative with Basil Hanna CEO of Parkerville Children and Youth Care, said that Australia’s children are incredibly precious, they deserve every opportunity to flourish, and party leaders can help promote a greater focus on valuing children. Mr Hanna said, this is a unique and wonderful opportunity to unite all our nation’s leaders towards one cause, our nation’s children.

Media Inquiries
Linda Savage – Convenor – 0409109899
Emma King – Deputy Convenor VCI – 0427963392

01 Jun 2016
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Prioritising the nations children & future generations

The Valuing Children Initiative is calling on all party leaders to prioritise the needs and rights of the young, and counter the tendency to focus on the short term through the creation of a Ministerial Portfolio for Children and Future Generations.

The tendency to focus on the short term characterises much of modern politics, and has been identified as damaging to economic reform as well as efforts to address issues such as climate change. The detrimental impact of short termism on the nation’s children receives far less attention, despite the fact there is only one chance at childhood and this influences so much of a person’s future.

The Valuing Children Initiative’s Convenor, Linda Savage, said it was time for decision makers to actively consider the impact of policy decisions on children, young people and future generations. She urged political leaders to heed the voices of children, as well as those who advocate on their behalf during the federal election campaign.

“Children are effectively locked out of election campaigns, but if their voices were heard they would tell a confronting story,”

“Those voices would include the 17.7% of children that live below the poverty line, or the children who are predicted to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to obesity and the chronic diseases that result ”, she said.

“It would also include the estimated one in 28 children who are first sexually abused by a family member before the age of 15 years, as well as those teenagers experiencing depression and thoughts about suicide, and the approximately one in ten indicating that they had engaged in self-harming behaviour.”

The Valuing Children Initiative has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Greens Leader Richard Di Natale asking them to commit to:

  1. The creation of a Ministerial portfolio for Children and Future Generations.
  2. The convening of at least one meeting per year of Federal, State and Territory Ministers to discuss policy development across portfolios for children and future generations.
  3. The establishment of a set of measurable outcomes to guide policy development, determined by independent experts, in consultation with children where appropriate.
  4. The instigation of a rigorous and transparent process to ensure that legislative and decision making processes consider the impact on children and future generations. This process should include the views of children whenever possible; risk analysis for particularly vulnerable children; and be evaluated and reported on.
  5. Funding community raising activities to inspire Australians to value all children, understand that a child’s wellbeing is the responsibility of the entire community and ensure children are at the forefront of our considerations.

The Valuing Children Initiative is calling on party leaders to put their differences aside, and make this commitment in the interests of children today, as well as future generations of children.

Across the world, governments and communities are looking at new ways to ensure children and future generation’s needs and interests are explicitly taken into account, notwithstanding their lack of political or economic influence. Ms Savage cited the work of the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations at Oxford University and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

Mr Tony Pietropiccolo, Director of Centrecare who established the Valuing Children Initiative with Basil Hanna CEO of Parkerville Children and Youth Care, said that Australia’s children are incredibly precious, they deserve every opportunity to flourish, and party leaders can help promote a greater focus on valuing children. Mr Hanna said, this is a unique and wonderful opportunity to unite all our nation’s leaders towards one cause, our nation’s children.

Media Inquiries
Linda Savage Convenor 0409109899
Emma King Deputy Convenor VCI 0427963392

Poverty- Poverty in Australia Report 2014
http://www.acoss.org.au/poverty-2/
Prescott, S. 2015 ‘Origins: Early –life solutions to the modern health crisis.’
Crawley, Western Australia. UWAP, p.39
Children’s Rights Report 2015. ‘All I want is a life free from violence.’
www.humanrights.gov.au
Lawrence D, Johnson S, Hafekost J, Boterhoven De Haan K, Sawyer M, Ainley J, Zubrick SR (2015) The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents. Report on the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Department of Health, Canberra. p.iii
01 Jun 2016
Initiate calls for a minister for minors

Initiative calls for a minister for minors

In Australia, almost 18 per cent of kids live below the poverty line. One in four are overweight or obese. And an estimated 1 in 28 were sexually abused by a family member before they were 15.

Particularly given young people’s lack of agency and the fact that they comprise almost 25 per cent of our population, the Valuing Children Initiative (VCI) reckons these figures are pretty dismal.

In response, VCI has written to the leaders of the three major political parties, calling for the establishment of a ministerial portfolio ‘for Children and Future Generations’.

“Given the issues facing children, clearly not enough is being done to adequately provide for them”, said VCI’s convenor, Linda Savage. “There are ministers for women, environment, sport and even tourism. Having a children’s minister would reflect its importance.”

Savage also emphasised that having a children’s minister would encourage policy long-termism. “The tendency to focus on the short term characterises much of modern politics, and has been identified as damaging to economic reform, as well as to efforts to address issues such as climate change. The detrimental impact of short-termism on the nation’s children receives far less attention, despite the fact there is only one chance at childhood and this influences so much of a person’s future”, she said.

The letters are part of VCI’s broader campaign, urging the government to do more for children. Rather than “asking for money”, Savage clarified that the group seeks to challenge the culture around how we value kids, as, in her opinion, we clearly don’t value them enough.

“That is incredibly important because we know it’s the culture and the attitudes that affect a child’s life,” she said. “Bearing in mind children have no choice about the circumstances of their birth nor their childhood, we have a responsibility to all children to ensure that they have the childhoods they deserve, which in the long run will benefit all of us.”

Spearheaded by Western Australian agencies Centrecare and Parkerville Children and Youth Care Incorporated, the initiative commenced in January. It will be officially launched in August. Along with advocacy, Savage and her team have commissioned research into understanding how children are valued in Australia. “We don’t really know where they fit into people’s priorities,” she explained.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, opposition leader Bill Shorten and Greens chief Richard Di Natale haven’t responded to Savage’s letters but she hopes media coverage will bring the group to their attention, despite it being election season.

Apparently validating the group’s point, children haven’t been politicians’ recent media priorities. “It’s telling during election campaigns whose voices are heard,” Savage mused. “If you look at the coverage in recent days, zero to 17-year-olds [nearly 25 per cent of the population] aren’t in the headlines.”

By: Loren SmithJune 1, 2016

 http://www.earlylearningreview.com.au/initiative-calls-for-a-minister-for-minors/

04 May 2016
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Valuing children crucial to safety and wellbeing

With recent reports of children and young people committing suicide, the spotlight turns yet again to what more could and should have been done. There is heartfelt sorrow, talk of more support and services, expression of the genuine desire to do better, and honest reflection that these deaths underscore complex societal problems. Problems to which politicians, families, the community and the many organisations dedicated to ensuring children have a safe, caring and supportive life, are struggling to find answers.

The Valuing Children Initiative is asking people to pause and ask how we value children in Australia today. How we value children has been identified as directly affecting our attitudes towards them, and our behaviour and action on their behalf.

The third three-year action plan (2015-2018) of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020, described Australia as a wealthy nation “that ranks well in comparison with other developed countries on many measures of health and wellbeing.

“However, evidence indicates that many children and young people face a range of issues including behavioural and emotional problems and mental health issues, living in jobless families, witnessing or experiencing violence in their family, starting school poorly equipped to learn and being homeless.”

It is clear our children are not faring as well as they should be. Something is missing. It is the time to question whether our attitudes and the priority we give children’s rights and needs have kept pace with what we want for all children, and believe they deserve and have a right to expect.

How we value children and our attitudes towards them matters. Nothing illustrates this better than the shocking revelations at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Knowing what children have endured, and that those who dared to speak up were so rarely, if ever, believed, seems light years away from what we hope would be the response today and what the law demands.

Yet even today children are not safe in their own country and in their own homes. The National Children’s Commissioner in her Children’s Rights Report 2015 estimated that one in 28 children first experience sexual abuse by a family member before age 15. There is no room for complacency.

The social conditions in which a child is born, their experience in the crucial early years of life, and the services and supports available to them as they grow up all rest upon the decisions and the attitudes of adults and on the cultural norms of the times.

The Valuing Children Initiative believes that children should be at the forefront of our considerations and given greater priority. Nordic countries identify a culture of valuing children as crucial to achieving high levels of child wellbeing. Children too have singled out being valued and respected as key to their wellbeing.

When children’s needs are prioritised this is reflected in decision making. In Britain, for example, the conservative Government has introduced a sugar levy on soft drinks specifically to improve children’s health, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying: “I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation ‘I’m sorry, we knew there was a problem with sugary drinks, we knew it caused disease but we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing’.”

This marks a significant change in attitude to tax reform, in part prioritising the best interests of children and future generations, as well as rebalancing immediate interests and returns for the market against costs in the longer term.

Meanwhile, Australian children are predicted to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to obesity and the chronic diseases to which it leads. No child can choose the circumstances of their birth or their childhood. It is no achievement to be born with greater opportunities or less challenges in life than someone else. It is merely luck. All children must navigate a world they had no part in creating. For some, navigating this world is proving to be beyond them and, for too many others, it is far more of a challenge than it should be.

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By Linda Savage, Convenor. Featured in West Australian 4.5.16

http://enewspaper2.smedia.com.au/wandaily/shared/ShowArticle.aspx?doc=WAN%2F2016%2F05%2F04&entity=Ar03801&sk=2ECAA004