Last week around 100 representatives of the NGO and research sectors participated in the annual meeting of the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing in Sydney.
The meeting discussed progress on the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 (the ‘National Framework’), Australia’s first-ever COAG-endorsed plan of action to improve child safety and wellbeing. Recently-appointed Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja, re-affirmed the Commonwealth Government’s strong support for the National Framework, especially the Third Action Plan (2015-18) with its emphasis on the ‘first thousand days for a child’.
Beyond the National Framework, the meeting focussed on a broader question: What must we do to make Australia a nation in which all children grow up safe and well? The meeting heard how there had been a 31% increase in the number of child abuse substantiations in Australia over the past six years.
Panel discussions highlighted a large number of themes, in particular, the situation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people, and juvenile detention in the NT. A number of ideas were discussed, including the need for an overarching national plan of action for children and young people which would encompass a multi-sectoral, multi-year investment strategy to identify the resources required to turn around child abuse and neglect.
Several speakers highlighted that we are at, or rapidly approaching, another crucially important moment when child safety is likely to concentrate national attention. Several developments were noted. In the past month, the South Australian Royal Commission into Child Protection released its 260 recommendations for reform of SA’s child protection system. Also in the past month, the Commonwealth Government established a Royal Commission into youth detention in the Northern Territory. In December next year, the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is scheduled to be released.
If there was one key message from the meeting it was this: “the National NGO Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing is determined to see major and lasting improvements in child protection at the earliest possible time; it will keep working tirelessly to that end.”
Dr Brian Babington
Chief Executive Officer
24 August 2016