A crucial moment in time for Australia’s children

2017 marks a critical juncture for children’s safety and wellbeing.

As two Royal Commissions are due to report about the mistreatment of children, 2017 marks a critical juncture for children’s safety and wellbeing.

This current focus on how profoundly society and institutions have failed children in Australia, demands that we ask hard questions about how we value children today, the Convenor of the Valuing Children Initiative (VCI), said Linda Savage.

What we value is reflected in a society’s culture and prevailing attitudes, and plays a pivotal role in ensuring children’s safety and wellbeing.

The pivotal role that culture and embedded societal attitudes play, was acknowledged by Archbishop Mark Coleridge in a message to Catholic school parents and churches, in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

‘We have changed procedures, we have changed protocols, but if we don’t really change the culture at that deeper level, the problem could re-emerge in the future.’

In an article published by the Law Society of West Australia this month, the VCI argues that a change in how we value children is essential to children’s safety and wellbeing, and asks “How many Royal Commissions does it take to keep children safe?”

‘While the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is indispensable to the acceptance and admission of past failures to protect children, it brings with it the risk of unintentionally implying that these concerns are now largely taken care of. Or that better policy and legislation will be enough to bring about the change needed to protect children.’

This mental shortcut would be a grave mistake, Ms. Savage said.

Children are still subject to shocking rates of sexual abuse and harm in Australia and their ultimate safety requires a change in attitudes to children and that begins with how we value them.

Rates of child abuse and neglect, poverty, and homelessness are further evidence that children are simply not valued enough.

The VCI has called on state and federal governments to:

  1. Fund campaigns to promote understanding that a society’s attitudes to its children and how we value them impact fundamentally on their safety and wellbeing.
  2. Undertake research to better understand attitudes to children in Australia today,
  3. Create a dedicated Ministerial portfolio for Children and Future Generations, and a National Plan for Children.
  4. Instigate a rigorous and transparent process to ensure all policy, legislative and decision making processes actively consider the impact on children and future generation