Universal Children’s Day – There’s Still a Long Way to Go
Wednesday, 20th November 2013 at 2:09 pm
The world as we know it suggests we still have a long way to go to ensure that all children are safe and have a good childhood, says the CEO of Berry Street, Sandie de Wolf.
This week we celebrated Universal Children’s Day and the 24th anniversary of the United Nations’ adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Given the innate vulnerability of children, it is appropriate that the UNCRC was the first legally binding international instrument that recognised the full range of all children’s human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights.
A snapshot of last week’s news, however, suggests we still have a long way to go to ensure that all children are safe and have a good childhood.
On Wednesday, the Victorian Parliamentary Committee released the results of their yearlong Inquiry, “Betrayal of Trust”. Their findings are unequivocal – “the experiences of criminal child abuse has profound and lifelong consequences for the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of victims” (P. xxv).
The Inquiry highlighted what those of us working with these children know, that most sexual abuse is committed by adults who children should have been able to rely on to protect them – relatives, family friends and supposedly trusted community “leaders”.
When this abuse is compounded by a “minister of religion or spiritual leader” the consequences for the child can be even more devastating (P. xxviii).
On Saturday, we read of the 65 Australians being arrested as part of an international child pornography ring. Worldwide, 386 children were identified and rescued, including six Australian boys.
Pleasing as it is to have broken this paedophile ring, with the accessibility of technology this case is likely to only be the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
And on Sunday, research by the Youth Substance Abuse Service demonstrated the strong link between childhood physical abuse and teenage self harming and substance abuse.
As a signatory, the UNCRC imposes on the Australian Government non-negotiable standards and obligations to protect children from “harmful influences, abuse and exploitation”.
Children have no choice about how they come into this world and both deserve and need protection. This is their birthright, but equally importantly, a good childhood is the foundation of a healthy society.
If we want to live in a community where all citizens can contribute, and where we can all feel safe, then we must invest in our children.
Clearly, governments have an important role, but childhood is too important to be left just to government.
As a society, we must have a zero tolerance approach to all abuse of our precious children.
As adults, we all need to play our part to ensure their safety.
About the author: Sandie de Wolf was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Berry Street 1994 when it merged with Sutherland Homes for Children. Berry Street is now the largest independent child and family welfare organisation in Victoria, providing services across the State, employing more than 750 staff and with an annual turnover of more than $60 million.