Protecting Children is Everybody’s Business

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The National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) co-ordinates the annual National Child Protection Week campaign, which in 2012 runs 2 – 8 September and continues to promote the key message that ‘protecting children is everybody’s business’.

More than 30,000 children are reported as being abused or neglected every year in Australia (according to national criminology figures). We know from NAPCAN’s National Survey of knowledge and attitudes that 92% of Australians agree that child abuse and neglect are serious issues, yet less than half would take action to protect a child when confronted with clear signs of abuse or neglect.

Child abuse and neglect continues to be one of Australia’s most serious and concerning challenges to overcome, and unfortunately reports of child abuse and neglect remain high.

However, evidence shows that building strong cohesive communities makes a difference in keeping children and young people safe and well. FOCUS  spoke to Angela Walsh, National Research and Evaluation Manager, to find out more.

Please give us some background about how NAPCAN was established?

 NAPCAN was co-founded in 1987 by Rosemary Sinclair AO and Christine Stewart. It was originally founded to open up lines of communication between the different government departments, agencies, professionals and community groups working in the child protection field. NAPCAN has continued to lead the way in creating a national focus on the need for prevention strategies to address child abuse and neglect.

Today NAPCAN is governed by a voluntary Board that operates with the support of an extensive network of professionals, practitioners and concerned individuals, who all donate their time and expertise to support NAPCAN’s mission. Led by the CEO, a small team of professional program, strategy and policy staff is employed across Australia. This dedicated team brings a broad range of expertise and experience to the design and implementation of NAPCAN’s strategies for change to make communities safer for children and young people.

NAPCAN works with researchers, professionals, government, business and the media to bring about change to the cycle of abuse. Tell us about this?

NAPCAN partners with communities, governments, organisations and committed individuals across Australia and internationally to implement strength-based, community-led initiatives and practices to enhance the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. We promote the wellbeing and protection of children and young people, encouraging everyone to play their part in keeping children and young people safe from violence, abuse and neglect.

NAPCAN are strengthening the voice of communities (in particular children and young people) in planning, research and evaluation of strengths-based, community-led initiatives and practices to enhance the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, including programs like LOVE BiTES, ALL CHILDREN BEING SAFE, GROWING RESPECT and PLAY A PART. We also support communities and organisations to develop and implement child and youth friendly policies, practices and procedures.

Across Australia we deliver and support community education, professional development on the prevention of violence, child abuse and neglect and provide ongoing support and mentoring in the prevention of violence, child abuse and neglect to individuals and organisations. This includes the LOVE BiTES Respectful Relationships program that runs in schools across the Mid North Coast and the New England areas and our Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention workshops across the Northern Territory.

NAPCAN also co-ordinates and promotes National Child Protection Week as a catalyst to encourage community action and to engage individual communities to promote the safety and wellbeing of children and young people.

I understand that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child underpins all of NAPCAN’s work …

NAPCAN believes that all children need to feel and be safe and protected from harm. NAPCAN works to achieve positive changes for children and young people by promoting children’s basic human rights and creating child friendly/child safe communities. In particular, we aim to address the following articles from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (here written in Child Friendly Language). Consider children living in Immigration Detention Centres across Australia and consider Article 27.

Article 3 All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children.

Article 19 Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, in body or mind.

Article 27 Refers to every child’s right to food, clothing, a safe place to live and to have their basic needs met. They should not be disadvantaged so that they cannot do many of the things other kids can do.

Article 34 Children have the right to be free from sexual abuse.

Article 36 Children have the right to protection from any kind of exploitation.

Article 37 No one is allowed to punish children in a cruel or harmful way.

How can local communities help to build a child-friendly Australia? 

Communities can help build a child-friendly Australia by taking an interest in and caring for their neighbourhood and neighbours. Consider welcoming people who move into the neighbourhood and introducing your children to theirs, showing them where the closest parks and facilities are and offering a smile and friendly ear if they need. It only takes small practical steps that are inclusive of families, children and young people to build a child friendly community. Think about playing your part by:

Congratulating families and young people when you see good things happening.

Thinking of safe and respectful ways to be an active bystander if you see an adult being inappropriate towards a child or young person.

Getting the kids in your street to map your neighbourhood: talk to them about safety, ask them to identify the places where they don’t feel safe and let them know that it is adults’ responsibility to do something about it.

Include your neighbours in an emergency plan. When something unexpected happens, neighbours are often the people to get assistance from. Involving children and young people in your planning ensures that they feel included and are informed.

Build relationships with the children in your neighbourhood. By smiling, saying hello, remembering their names and listening to them, you show young people that they are important.

How can people get involved?

Here’s one way you can make a difference: get involved in your local community. Plan a local event to raise awareness of National Child Protection Week and share ideas with each other about how your community can play your part all year round to create a child friendly Australia.

Start playing your part in NCPW by visiting www.playyourpart.org.au – check out the videos of music and artwork these kids are producing, and share them on your social media and email networks.

The Play Your Part campaign will offer advice and real life stories as examples of how different members of the community can play their part to prevent child abuse and neglect, available as a free community resource on NAPCAN’s campaign website. Get inspired!

NAPCAN are calling on people to participate during NCPW by submitting their community initiative to keep kids safe, with great initiatives selected to be showcased throughout the year on our website.

Thank you Angela.

Interview by Karen Farrell.

This story was published in issue 67 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus

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