Location: William Magerey Room, Adelaide Oval, South Australia

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E&OE…

Thank you Mr Scheepers.

I would also like to acknowledge:

  • The Hon. Susan Close MP, Minister for Education and Child Development
  • Amanda Shaw, Guardian for Children and Young People
  • Simon Schrapel, Chief Executive of Uniting Communities and member of the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing Steering Committee
  • Professor John Lynch, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Adelaide, and
  • Leesa Waters, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN).

This week I have had the pleasure of attending events held around Australia as part of National Child Protection Week.

I am very pleased to be here this morning to learn something of the work you are doing in South Australia and for the announcement of the state Play Your Part Awards winners. Thank you for the invitation and for welcoming me here today.

The Government is very proud to be supporting NAPCAN in organising National Child Protection Week this year and we are committed to continuing to provide funding for this initiative.

This year’s theme for the Week – ‘Stronger Communities, Safer Children’ – is a reminder that we need to build communities where there is a strong sense of belonging, where all our children are cared for and know that they are cared for and where we do everything we can to give children a stable, loving environment where they can thrive.

Central to providing strong, safe communities is ensuring we put the needs of children first in our child protection and care policies. We need to build communities where people know each other, where families are supported, where children are seen and heard, and where everyone plays a part in keeping children safe.

The Australian, state and territory governments, and the community sector are working together in many areas to achieve these goals. I know that in addition to providing crucial services directly to those most in need, many of you have shared your insights and continue to make valuable contributions through your involvement in the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing. I also appreciate the strong community contribution and support for the Third Action Plan under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.

As many of you know, the Third Action Plan has a strong focus on involving all sectors of the community in prevention and early intervention. It also aims to strengthen the abilities of families and communities to care for their children and young people. Funding of $2.6 million a year is available through the National Initiatives component of the Families and Communities program to support activities in the Third Action Plan. In addition, the Government announced funding of $5.1m to support two trials:

  • the Building Capacity in Australian Parents trial, which will work to build parenting skills in the first 1000 days, and
  • the Towards Independent Adulthood trial, which will test a new approach to supporting young people as they move from out-of-home-care into adulthood.

If we are going to reduce the risk of children being harmed, it is vitally important that we develop a child safe culture not only in our families but across all areas of community activity. We all have a part to play in ensuring everyone, everywhere, understands the importance of early recognition and appropriate responses to threats to children. Most particularly, we need to ensure children and young people are empowered to speak up when they feel unsafe, and that those who are caring for them listen and understand.

One of my key concerns is making sure we put children first in our child protection policies. I’ve been passionate about adoption reform and that’s because to keep kids safe, we need to have a pathway for them to get stability and security with a loving family. As NAPCAN points out, child abuse and neglect are huge problems in Australia, and if we are to tackle them successfully we must stop it happening in the first place and we must be prepared to act when kids are at risk.

The Australian Government provides funding for a wide range of early intervention services through the Department of Social Services.

In South Australia, these services include:

  • Communities for Children Facilitating Partners to enable a whole of community approach to strengthen early child development
  • Children and Parenting Support Services to provide support to children and families
  • Intensive Family Support Services in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara, lands to increase parenting capacity and reduce child neglect, and
  • sites delivering the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters.

The Government is also supporting actions under the Third Action Plan to boost strength based parenting practices and child wellbeing, such as:

  • communication and awareness raising activities focused on effective parenting practices during the first 1000 days from conception to the age of two.
  • the Building Capacity in Australian Parents trial, which aims to build parenting skills in the first 1000 days from conception to two years of age for a child. The trial will involve local area coordination and text messaging trials.
  • early intervention service co-ordination targeted to vulnerable expectant parents and parents of young children affected by domestic and family violence, alcohol and other drugs and mental health issues, and
  • the potential development of a new national measurement of the number of children witnessing violence, to further understand the increasing number of children who are reported as experiencing emotional abuse in the child protection system.

National Child Protection Week is an important time for us all to reflect on how our policies and programs are meeting their goals and to remind the community at large that protecting our children is everyone’s responsibility.

We all, no matter where we are, where we work or where we live, need to subscribe to the vision of an Australia where children and young people are valued, nurtured and live free from violence, abuse and neglect. There are of course some people who go the extra mile in seeking to achieve this and I would like to close by congratulating NAPCAN for instituting the annual Play Your Part Awards that recognise these outstanding Australians.

I look forward to meeting your South Australian award winners later this morning.

Thank you.

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