Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Parliamentary Briefing – National Child Protection Week

Location: Canberra


We are all here today because when it comes to child abuse and neglect there is no room for politics – we all share responsibility to keep our children safe.

All children deserve a safe, healthy and happy childhood.

But every year there are around 60,000 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect.

The substantiation rates have doubled in the past ten years.

For these children, the physical and emotional scars last a lifetime and span generations.

It confronts everything we believe in that this happens in a country like Australia.

The long term personal and social burden is devastating.

It is our responsibility to break this cycle of abuse.

National Child Protection Week – ‘Children see, Children do’

The message for National Child Protection Week this year is clear and compelling – ‘Children See, Children Do’

Quite simply, children learn their behaviour from the adults around them.

As adults, and especially as parents, we are 24 hour a day role models.

Children do what they see adults doing. Learning from adults, particularly parents, seems so right and natural, but it some cases the consequences can be devastating.

This advertisement produced by the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) starkly shows how children emulate adults – from something relatively minor like littering to the horror of domestic violence.

All of us, MPs and senators, must use National Child Protection Week to get behind NAPCAN and get their message out.

A universal message that all Australian adults, especially parents, have a responsibility to be a safe and positive role model for children.

It is our responsibility to show leadership.

National Child Protection Framework

There are no simple or easy solutions to child abuse and neglect.

Parents and families of course will always have primary responsibility for caring for their children.

But when children are at risk governments have a responsibility to step in before children are hurt and permanently damaged.

We must take a child-centred approach.

The best interests of children must drive our policy making.

That’s why we are developing a National Child Protection Framework to provide leadership to protect out children.

The framework will be finalised by the end of the year.

It will be a practical, action-oriented strategy harnessing the capacity and knowledge of state and territory governments and experts in the field like NAPCAN.

I also recently appointed child protection specialist, Mary Ann O’Loughlin to identify the barriers to information sharing and how to overcome them.

We also need to relieve pressure on stretched child protection services and treat the issues that drive child neglect and abuse.

And we have to harness all our available resources and services …health, mental health, housing, education, income support… to help families and children before they reach a crisis point.

Two months ago I released a discussion paper, titled Australia’s children: safe and well, aimed a getting the debate going.

Well it certainly did that – we have received almost 200 letters and submissions providing feedback.

These have come from an incredibly diverse range of groups and individuals, from state and territory government agencies with direct responsibility for child protection, from non-government organisations working with children and families, from members of the public and of course, one from NAPCAN.

Academics, health and medical groups, lawyers, foster carers, grandparent and kinship carers have all provided feedback – extremely important feedback, as it comes from people who have experienced the system firsthand.

The message we’re getting, – and this is what we’ve heard from NAPCAN – is that it is essential to stop child abuse before it happens.

The framework will set out how we, as a nation, best protect and care for our children.

It can only work if we have multilateral support and a shared commitment to its goals.

Finally, I want to pay tribute to Anne-Marie Darnell, mother of three young children, who is here today to tell her story.

Anne-Marie was part of UnitingCare Burnside’s NEWPIN program for two years.

She says it helped her take control of her life for the first time ever, breaking the cycle of generational abuse. As she said to me,” I’d never given anyone a chance to get to know me because I never stuck around long enough but the people at NEWPIN wouldn’t let me go.”

Her story is inspirational.

I urge you all to spread the ‘Children See, Children Do’ message as part of National Child Protection week.