A new report released today by the Australian Human Rights Commission highlights how important it is for governments to listen to children and families when making decisions about services and government policies that affect them.
The Keeping kids safe and well – your voices report, led by National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds, follows a request from the Australian Government Department of Social Services to find out what children and their families think would help keep children safe.
In the report, the top three things children, young people and families said they need to feel safe are:
- help with housing
- mental health services
- help with basic needs, like food, clothing, transport and school supplies.
“Many children and families said it can be hard to find the help they need and sometimes the right help isn’t there for them. They emphasised the value of more co-ordinated ‘wraparound’ services and service providers whom they can trust,” Commissioner Hollonds said.
“Better coordination across service systems aiming to help children and their families should be a priority for all governments. We want to ensure that all children in Australia reach their full potential by growing up safe and supported, and those who need extra help are able to get the help they need.
“I commend the government for taking this important step to listen to children and their families and urge them to take further action on the issues children and families raise in this report. Children and their families need to be at the centre of policy and services designed to assist them.”
The findings of the report will inform the first five-year Action Plans under Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021–2031 (Safe and Supported) and will help to ensure the collaborative approach of Safe and Supported will drive change and deliver evidence based policy to improve outcomes for children and young people in Australia.
Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston welcomed the release of the report and said listening and responding to the voices and views of children and young people was one of the key principles underpinning Safe and Supported and the only way to achieve real and lasting change in the lives of Australian children and young people.
“I was pleased that the Commissioner’s report highlighted the importance of ensuring that early and targeted support services for children, young people and their families were trauma-informed, locally led, culturally-appropriate, and co-designed,” Minister Ruston said.
The findings of this report will be critical for all governments and the community sector to develop the Safe and Supported Action Plans and build on the Morrison Government’s $30 million commitment to help keep children safe in the 2022-23 Budget.”
A total of 45 group consultations were held with 400 children and families across the country between May and July 2021. A total of 426 survey responses were also received from a diverse group of children and their families.
Children and young people told the Commissioner that the government should listen to them, so that every child gets the help they need:
“I think the government should put aside their own personal beliefs and biases and focus on what children and young people are saying we need them to do. I think it's very important for them to understand that we know our struggles best and often know what works for us and what doesn’t.”
“We don’t have a voice. People think they know what we want but they don’t know.”
“Every kid should be looked after well – it should not be a matter of luck whether they get someone that cares for them. Most people who go through the care system have had nothing but negatives.”
Parents and carers also said that they should be listened to. They gave many suggestions on the ways that services could support them, so they can care for children:
“I didn’t get any help until I had a breakdown. But I don’t want it to constantly get to that stage before I am able to get help. It’s really frustrating that you have to get to breaking point before you can get help. We need a more proactive approach.”
“Invest in proven services such as early intervention services. Put far more investment into drug and alcohol and mental health services so that people can access services freely and quickly.”
For more information and to download the full report or a child-friendly version, visit humanrights.gov.au/safeandwell