As one of the most significant problems confronting many Australian families, the question that Families Australia asked most this past year was (as every year): What can we do to achieve real and sustained improvements in Australia’s appalling rates of child abuse and neglect?
Reflecting on Families Australia’s work in 2015-16, I think we contributed answers to that question in a variety of ways, as well as promoted the vital importance of families more generally.
The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 remained at the centre of our work as a primary vehicle to promote greater child safety and wellbeing. I was proud of Families Australia’s work to help devise and finalise the Third Action Plan (2015-18) under the National Framework. In doing so, useful new directions were added, in particular, to make the first thousand days for a child as safe and fulfilling as possible.
The Child Aware Approaches Conference in May 2016 again successfully brought together hundreds of policymakers, researchers and practitioners from around Australia to share their ideas about how to better assist and encourage children and families who experience vulnerability.
At the heart of the conference was June Oscar’s moving Oration which drew our attention to the wonderful work that she and her team do in Fitzroy Crossing to try to tackle the problem of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
The Child Aware Local Initiative certainly hit its stride during the year. The seven trial sites around Australia all delivered their local plans of action to help make their communities more aware of the needs and interests of children. Thank you to all our local partners and our colleagues at the Australian Centre for Child Protection at the University of South Australia.
In seeking to promote the importance of families more broadly, National Families Week 2016 (15-21 May) saw a record number of 130,000 people participating in hundreds of community-level events around the country. The feedback from local organisers continued to be extremely positive about the value of the Week.
In our advisory role to the national Parliament and Government, Families Australia made a number of submissions to inquiries and policy development processes during the year. These included submissions concerning the Third Action Plan under the National Framework and to Senate Inquiry into Out-of-Home Care. It was gratifying to see the uptake of many Families Australia perspectives in various reports.
In the lead-up to the July 2016 Federal election, Families Australia provided all Federal politicians with recommendations on ways to assist families that experience marginalisation and disadvantage. We elicited detailed responses from the major political parties.
We continued to strengthen links with our members, including through numerous speeches, social media communications, policy forums and publications, such as National Family News.
I wish to thank all our supporters, in particular, the Australian Government Department of Social Services. We continued to work closely with the Department on many policy fronts.
Thank you to the Chairperson and Board of Families Australia for their leadership and generous support. I continue to have the great privilege of working with an extraordinary staff team at Families Australia. Thank you one and all!
All of us at Families Australia look forward to the year ahead as we continue to pursue the goal of advancing family and child wellbeing.
Dr Brian Babington
14 July 2016