Speech by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Every Child is Important Campaign – Queensland

Location: The Long Room, Custome House 399 Queen Street, Brisbane

Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for your introduction.

Thank you, everyone, for joining us at this important event.

About two years ago I had a great morning at Luna Park in Melbourne. Some of you here, were there as well.

At the time, we launched the original Every Child is Important Campaign, to run in Victoria and Tasmania.

It was a great success and managed to attract an incredible $2 million worth of in-kind media coverage and support.

That’s a brilliant result and by all accounts the response to the campaign was amazing.

Today marks the beginning of the Every Child is Important campaign in Queensland, which the Australian Government is proud to support financially.

Indeed, the Prime Minister, himself, announced the Australian Government’s $1 million contribution in May last year.

The Australian Childhood Foundation’s campaign received additional funding from the Australian Government because the campaign is effective and also because of the Foundation’s track record and passionate commitment to preventing child abuse and neglect.

Since the launch of the National Campaign in Sydney in March this year, the messages of the Campaign has been effectively getting out.

Apart from the TV ads, over the past six months a number of campaign initiatives have been put in place, including:

  • The kidscount.com.au website has been expanded and the feedback from parents about the content has been very positive. So far, around 2500 parents have registered on the website to receive the latest information about parenting and campaign activities in their local area.
  • The parent information booklet has also been revised and was officially released as part of the national launch. Already in NSW and the ACT more than 100,000 booklets have been distributed.
  • 11 parenting seminars have been held in NSW and the ACT, with around 1,500 parents attending in urban and regional population centres. And we still have another 29 to run nationally.
  • A 1800 national campaign phone number is up-and-running and is being used regularly by people seeking information about parenting issues.

Well done to Joe and his team for what has been a busy and productive 6 months.

Today we’re launching a new string to the bow with the release of the talking book CD Rom.

The CD Rom contains narrated audio and printed versions of the parenting information booklet in seven community languages.

It is anticipated that the English version on the CD Rom will also help parents with visual impairments or low literacy skills.

The CD Rom material will be integrated into the kidscount.com.au website in the near future, so that parents can get the information online in both audio and text versions.

It is a marvellous resource and another innovative way that the campaign messages are being delivered around Australia.

A recent Department of Family and Community Services report highlighted that there is a lack of parenting information available to specific groups, particularly those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
The report recommended that projects be undertaken to engage specific cultural groups in different areas across Australia to identify issues and develop specific strategies to support them in their parenting role.

One of those communities identified as a high priority is the Horn of Africa, in particular Sudanese, Somalian, Ethiopian and Eritrean families as this is a newly emerging community in Australia.

Building on the Talking Book being launched today, I am pleased to announce additional funding to the Australian Childhood Foundation of $20,000 to develop their resources into a number of Horn of Africa languages.

I’ve always said that child protection is not an issue owned by governments.

We all have a responsibility to care and protect our children and young people.

Thinking about this, what really stands out about the Every Child is Important Campaign is the level of support it has attracted from right across the corporate sector.

I congratulate all the generous sponsors and supporters.

  • Storm Image Design
  • Starcom
  • Quantum Market Research
  • The Helen Macpherson Smith Trust
  • LOTE Marketing
  • Aurora Energy
  • Rothfield Print Management
  • Thinking.com
  • Lawyers, Herbert Geer and Rundle, and
  • SBS Radio.

Another thing I’ve always said is that, as the Australian Government Minister responsible for children’s issues, it is my responsibility to keep highlighting the cold, hard facts about child abuse and neglect, in this country.

Because they have to make an impact on anyone who listens.

The picture’s not a pretty one

Indeed, in modern-day Australia with figures on the rise, the situation is totally unacceptable.

The latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that:

  • The number of child protection notifications increased from nearly 140,000 in 2001-02 to just under 199,000 in 2002-03.
  • Over the same period, substantiations of child abuse and neglect increased from around 30,000 to more than 40,000.
  • The number of children placed in out-of-home care went up from nearly 19,000 to more than 20,000, and
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are over-represented in the child protection system.

I’m determined to keep working with state and territory governments on dealing with this and on other areas like foster care, and I’m happy to say we’re making progress.

But at a broader level, I’m also focusing on the early years in children’s lives by continuing to develop Australia’s first National Agenda for Early Childhood.

In my view, if we are really to make a difference – to improve children’s chances in life – we must have a national vision and an agreed plan of action.

I also believe that early intervention and prevention is the key to stopping the problems happening in the first place, or to resolving them before they get out of hand.

When we set out on a road to develop the National Agenda, I told my Department that I thought that helping children would mean helping parents.

They told me to be patient and wait to see with the experts and parents told us in our consultations.

Any you know what they all said? That helping children would mean helping parents.

There is no doubt that parents need help throughout the various stages of their child’s development.

We have started work on nailing down exactly what the best role for the Australian Government would be in this area and we have started discussions with the State and Territory Government about their role in the Agenda.

For it to be successful, it has to be a truly national approach and their role will be crucial.

The Australian Government is focussed on helping families and children.

More and more, parents do need to find ways of balancing their work and family commitments. This is why we have committed record levels of funding – more than $8.5 billion for the next four years – to child care.

We’ve also committed to a record families package in the last Budget that will increase rates of assistance and includes the $3,000 maternity payment.

We’ve also committed $365 million to the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy with a focus on early childhood development.

This Strategy has been highly successful in the last 4 years in supporting grassroots programs and delivering real help to parents.

Turning now to the official part of my job today.

Government spending and programs, alone, will not work unless we have community awareness of, and commitment to, child protection.

The Australian Childhood Foundation is taking a share of the responsibility, along with some very generous corporate sponsors.

The Every Child is Important campaign, is crucial. We must keep hammering home the messages, out there, in the public arena.

I’m very pleased the campaign is commencing in Queensland.

I’m convinced it’s going to make a difference.

Finally, remember those fantastic words from the campaign’s theme song, written by Van Morrison and sung by Rod Stewart.

Even if you can’t sing, repeat them to your children every day:

  • “Have I told you lately that I love you”
  • “Have I told you there’s no one else above you”
  • “You fill my heart with gladness”
  • “Take away my sadness”
  • “Ease my troubles, that’s what you do”.

Once again, congratulations and thanks to the Australian Childhood Foundation and everyone involved.

It gives me great pleasure now to launch the Every Child is Important campaign.

Thank you