Tomorrow’s adults may feel let down by us
Growing frustration amongst voters, and a sense of dis-empowerment, has led to calls for politicians to find new ways to respond to voters’ concerns that they are not being heard, or risk being punished at the ballot box.
Children, however, are unable to vent their feelings or voice their concerns through the ballot box, the Convenor of the Valuing Children Initiative, Linda Savage said.
Without a vote, children suffer the unconscious bias that relegates their rights and needs to a lower priority, just as women and indigenous Australians experienced before they gained the right to vote.
The Valuing Children Initiative Benchmark Survey: 2016 confirms this bias. When asked to rank issues of importance such as climate change, taxation, the health system, and the economy, children were ranked only ninth, Ms. Savage said.
Older Australians were ranked sixth.
This bias also helps explain why it has taken decades, and finally a Royal Commission for people to finally be able to tell their stories of sexual abuse as a child and the lifelong impact it has had.
To propel and reflect changing attitudes to women, governments appointed dedicated Ministers for women.
The Valuing Children Initiative has written to state and federal members of parliament calling for a dedicated Minister for Children and Future Generations. Ideally, this portfolio should be held by the Prime Minister and state Premiers so they can command the authority to elevate the priority given to children’s’ rights and needs and engender a whole of government response.
Despite having 42 Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, the 45th Turnbull government does not have a single portfolio that includes the word ‘child’.
The Valuing Children Initiative believes it is not enough to point to portfolios that provide services for children and assume that this is adequate.
Two Royal Commissions and an increase in substantiated cases of abuse and neglect, says otherwise, Ms. Savage said.
The Valuing Children Initiative is urging state and federal MPs to reinvigorate the role they play in ensuring the safety, health, and wellbeing of children. This includes supporting:
- The creation of a Ministerial portfolio for Children and Future Generations.
‘A dedicated Minister, ideally for the entire term of government, is needed to ensure children are at the forefront of considerations and that issues of concern about children, wherever they occur, are brought to the attention of the Cabinet. In addition, a dedicated Minister would play a role in countering short term and crisis-driven responses which are particularly detrimental to children, by encouraging high-level engagement in futures thinking and planning, reflecting the evidence about what is critical to a child’s ability to thrive, Ms. Savage said.
- The instigation of a rigorous and transparent process to ensure that all policy, legislative and decision-making processes actively consider the impact on children and future generations.
‘This would ensure that children, who cannot vote and are excluded from influencing the political process, will have their interests explicitly considered. Considering the impact on children and Future Generations should be integral to sound decision making and should include the views of children whenever possible.’ Ms. Savage said.