Why keeping children safe is a shared responsibility
7 September 2020 at 8:00 am
Through her work at the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, Lesley Taylor is on a mission to create a child safe world. She is this week’s Changemaker.
Lesley Taylor has dedicated her life to protecting children.
After working on the frontline of Northern Territory’s child protection for more than a decade, she realised she wanted to switch the focus from dealing with child abuse after it’s occurred, to helping prevent it in the first place.
This epiphany led her to founding NAPCAN in the Northern Territory in March 2000. NAPCAN is Australia’s first secular for-purpose organisation to focus entirely on the prevention of child abuse and neglect before it starts.
At its core is the belief that the best way to care for children is to support their families and invest in communities to become child friendly and child safe. This is a belief that Taylor lives and breathes.
She now plays a dual role for NAPCAN, as the national manager of prevention strategies and the Northern Territory manager.
Her 2012 TED Talk, What does being nice have to do with child abuse prevention?, has been downloaded thousands of times, and a more recent video she did for NAPCAN is being used as a teaching resource around preventing child abuse in Australia.
This week, National Child Protection Week is celebrating its 30th year with the theme “Putting children first”.
In this week’s Changemaker, Taylor talks about the importance of celebrating National Child Protection Week; why we all play a part in keeping children safe; and why she wouldn’t want to do anything else.
What attracted you to working in child protection?
I had been working as a youth worker up until my arrival in the Northern Territory and I remember seeing a job advertised about working in child protection and I thought it was the most exciting job that I could possibly imagine – and I wasn’t wrong. It was the most exciting, the most challenging and the most frightening all rolled into one.
What led you to founding NAPCAN in the Northern Territory in 2000?
I think what excited me about working in child protection was that it was such an important part about children’s safety, where you could actively work with families to keep children safe. I became aware of the need to work more efficiently and so I started working with groups of families and groups of young people. Then I went, this is not as efficient, I need to work with whole community groups. And then I realised that what I really wanted to do was not allow these families to come into contact with the child protection system at all. And it became such a natural progression for me to talk about, how do we get involved earlier.
I have a very powerful story of meeting a parent who had been reported to child protection and when I spoke to her about what was happening and how we could work together to keep her son safe, she just cried and said, “Where were you when I was begging for help when my child was five? Where were you then? Why now, when I have lost myself, I have lost my son, do you come and talk to me?” It affected me so much that it actually changed the way I think. I started looking out for things. I found NAPCAN’s resources, and I started using them. I volunteered there for seven years before I decided they really needed to pay me!
What impact are you hoping to have through your work?
To be able to have children valued and respected and heard. Really who could ask for more?
I hope for there to be more kindness in how we work with families, in how we think about families, and how we treat children.
This week is National Child Protection Week. Why is it important to celebrate this?
It provides an opportunity for us to really reconsider how well we value children and have we changed very much. We can reflect on how we are progressing as individuals, but it’s also an opportunity for us to reflect on how we are travelling as Australians in terms of our valuing of children in our culture. If we truly respect them then we will be able to make changes that include them more in the big decisions that impact on them.
How can people get involved?
There are so many things you can do to be part of National Child Protection Week. One of the simplest things you can do is just have a look at the incredible range of webinars that we have planned throughout the week and pick one that you think might be really valuable. It has the greatest minds and thinkers in the prevention space in Australia and the world. I think there is something for everyone in there, including some workshops for parents from our national e-safety commissioner and also lots of other interesting, challenging bits of information about how we can do our job better in keeping our children safe.
What is something you wish more people knew about your area of work?
That keeping children safe is a shared responsibility. It doesn’t belong to the children protection or the child safety system, it is everyday things that you and I do that play a part to make children safer, and families better supported in order to raise their children. I just think if we all realised that we have a part to play, and what that part was, then we would all be in a better place.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is feeling that I am making a difference. Who could ask for more in their work than to feel that you are doing something that is valuable, that makes a difference and that ultimately things are getting better for children and their families, and that communities are more child friendly than ever before. I just don’t want to do anything else.