What is the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children?
Given worsening national rates of child abuse and neglect, in 2009 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) adopted the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 (the ‘National Framework’).
The National Framework is Australia’s first-ever national plan to be formally endorsed by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and the NGO/research sectors to improve child safety and wellbeing.
It represents an important commitment by Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, and the NGO and research sectors. COAG intended the National Framework to move Australia ‘from seeing ‘protecting children’ merely as a response to abuse and neglect to one of promoting the safety and wellbeing of children’ and to reduce child abuse and neglect over time.
From inception, a key aspect of the National Framework has been its ‘tripartite’ nature, with policy development and program implementation being undertaken between three partners—the Commonwealth Government, State and Territory Governments, and the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing.
The current Third Action Plan (2015-18) builds on previous action plans, particularly by giving increased emphasis to early intervention and prevention measures and the first thousand days of life. This aligns well with the National Framework’s original strategy of prioritising the public health model.
What is the National Framework 4th action plan 2018-2020?
The Fourth Action Plan will be the final three-year action plan under the current National Framework. Consultations with the NGO and research sectors were undertaken in 2017 on future directions for the National Framework.
Consultations will occur in early 2018 to devise the draft Fourth Action Plan. Current planning is that the draft Fourth Action Plan will be considered for adoption by Community Services Ministers in the second half of 2018.
The 29 March 2018 meeting of the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing in Canberra will be an important part of the policy development and consultation process for the Fourth Action Plan.
What has the National Framework achieved to date?
The National Framework has delivered in several areas. It was the platform to establish National Standards for Out-of-Home Care, the office of the National Children’s Commissioner, the national research agenda, and the national child protection minimum data set.
It is the locus for current work for COAG on National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. It has engendered unity of purpose amongst NGOs and researchers through the National Coalition, and promoted collaboration between and across governments. Early prevention has been increasingly emphasised across Action Plans.
What will happen after the National Framework ends in 2020?
Building on the National Framework, there is a strong case for stepping-up national efforts after 2020. The National Framework would be seen as the foundation to a broader national initiative on child wellbeing and family strengthening. Such a plan could give strong priority to early prevention with a focus on the most vulnerable families and communities, enhanced cross-sectoral and cross-jurisdictional collaboration, and prioritised attention on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Future national policy should continue to support a public health model, tripartite collaboration, measuring impact and progress, as well as engage the community and build on past National Framework priority areas and intersecting national agendas, in particular, family/domestic violence and homelessness.