NCWQ Child Youth and Family Report May 2019

The months are passing by quickly, Easter has come and gone, and the middle of the year is close. In the words of Dr Seuss “how did it get so late so soon?” This report sets out some upcoming family events, outcomes of the 2019 Federal Budget, brief discussion on recommendations handed down on 10 April 2019 from the Family Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into the Family Law Act, and changes in Queensland for 16 to 17-year-olds wishing to be vaccinated.

Upcoming Dates

5 May 2019                                         International Day of Families

5 May 2019                                         Applications close QLD Family and Child Commissioner – Recruitment for Youth Advisory Council (www.qfcc.qld.gov.au)

15 May 2019 – 21 May 2019              National Family Week (https://nfw.org.au/find-an-event)

30 May 2019                                       Applications close NCWQ Bursaries

1 June 2019                                         Global Day of Parents

2019 Budget – Family Violence

Since the last report we have had a Federal election set for 18 May 2019. Partial Federal Budget funding leading up to the election includes $328 million over the next four years to fund prevention, response, and recovery initiatives as part of the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children (2010 to 2022). The Fourth Action Plan addresses different forms that abuse can take, with specific measures to address risks faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and women with an intellectual disability.

Part of the $78 million for housing for women and children fleeing family violence was an amount of $10 million dollars allocated for Specialist Family Violence Services, that included couple-based counselling and dispute resolution services. Within this context front line services have raised concerns around safety issues for women in couples counselling and mediation.

The Government will also provide an additional $30.5 million over three years, in part to provide legal assistance services for those experiencing family violence, and $22.5 million for the establishment of the National Centre for the Prevention of Child Abuse. An amount of $10 million over four years will be invested in educating Australian children, parents, and teachers about how young people can stay safe online, with $7.8 million going towards the establishment of a National Public Register of Child Sex Offenders. 1800 RESPECT will receive $64 million to expand their services.

In relation to youth mental health and suicide prevention there is $461 million allocated.

In relation to education for children, the Federal government has provided $453 million to extend the National Partnership Agreement of Universal Access to Early Childhood Education to ensure that every child has access to a quality pre-school education for 15 hours a week before school. And at the other end, universities will receive $93.7 million over four years for scholarships for students who study at regional campuses.

What is missing however, is an increase to Newstart, an increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance, and provisions for superannuation for Australians in unpaid care work, the majority of which are women caring for a child with a disability. There also continues to be a lack of action on issues such as women’s homelessness.

Australian Law Reform Commission – Final Report – Review of the Australian Family Law System

In 2017 the Australian Law Reform Commission received Terms of Reference to carry out an inquiry into the family law system. The key themes that emerged from this inquiry is that the family law system is unsafe, does not enforce parenting orders adequately, is overly complex, expensive, slow, and lacks accountability. The Final Report was presented on 31 March 2019 (“Family Law for the Future – An Inquiry into the Family Law System”) and provides a road map for improvements to the system of justice, and legislative amendments. The Final Report comprised 60 recommendations and can beaccessed at https://www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries/family-law-system.

Perhaps the most radical recommendation is the abolition of the Federal family courts. This would leave the State and Territory courts to make orders not only under the Family Law Act (1975), but also under State family violence and child protection laws. The other recommendation is the abandonment of the 2006 reforms that spoke to the option of shared care, or equal time arrangements. There is no question that a child benefits from having a close and continuing relationship with both parents following separation, however where there is family violence, mental illness, neglect, or other complex issues, children are left vulnerable to further abuse. This recommendation is relevant to Resolution 7 – Rights of the Child and Protection of the Child’s Interests endorsed by the NCWA within the Third Action Plan (2016-2019) of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children (2010-2022).

Other proposed changes to the Family Law Act (1975) include provisions for determining what arrangements would promote the best interests of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children, and repeal of the requirement to consider the possibility of a child spending equal or substantial time with each parent. Property division has been simplified and there is a focus on encouraging amicable resolution between separating parents. Provision is made to assist parents to understand their final parenting orders and further supports in court, including an Indigenous Liaison Officer, and support for people with a disability.

Recommendation 50 proposes the establishment of a Children and Young People’s Advisory Board which would inform policy and practice about children’s experiences within the family law system. The ALRC also suggest that Section 121 of the Family Law Act (1975), which restricts publication of family law proceedings to the public, be redrafted. It is hoped that the Government and all politicians will give careful consideration to these recommendations.

Family Law and Vaccinations

For separating parents, under the current Family Law Act (1975) there is a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility. In these cases where parents have not agreed on medical procedures, parents have had to get orders from the court in order to get children vaccinated (http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/UTSLRS/2017/28.html). This has been expensive, time consuming, and has prevented children whose parents are separated from accessing services that are accessible to children whose parents are not separated. And although this will not assist separated families with younger children in overcoming these barriers, on 5 April 2019 the Queensland Government made the following announcement:

Teens Can Now Get The Flu Jab at Pharmacies

Queensland teens can now receive vaccines for highly contagious, preventable diseases from their local pharmacist. Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, Steven Miles said the changes would make it easier for 16 and 17-year-old Queenslanders and their parents. From tomorrow, Queenslanders from 16 years of age can now get vaccinated for influenza, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles at a pharmacy, previously only GPs could vaccinate under 18s.

“Queenslanders aged 16-and-over can get their vaccinations without parental consent, so these changes will make it much easier for them to access vaccinations like the flu shot. This will also make life easier for parents with teenage children.”

Mr Miles said the amendments also allow younger Queenslanders to make their own decisions about getting vaccinated. “This is a step in the right direction for Queensland to reduce the barriers for kids of anti-vax parents to gain access to vaccines for preventable diseases,” Mr Miles said “it also brings Queensland into line with other states and territories.”

As well as amending the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 (HDPR), the pharmacist vaccination drug therapy protocol will be revised to specify that a pharmacist may administer the specified vaccines to a person 16 years and older, instead of an “adult” as previously stated. Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said pharmacists provide an additional opportunity for vaccination for people who would not otherwise get vaccinated.

In summary, there is progress that is being made, and at the same time much more work to be done. Together we must continue to advocate for women’s and children’s rights. Remember “when women support each other, incredible things happen”.

Child and Family, Annual Report 2018

By Marjorie Voss

NCWQ Child and Family Adviser

Unfortunately, the social issues affecting the community have not decreased, but appear to have increased.   This report brings to the fore some of the newer issues and touches on past issues still affecting people to-day.

Gambling:  In a report presented by Phil Mercer (BBC News, Sydney) it was stated in part that according to Dr Charles Livingstone (a gambling researcher at Monash University) “An estimated 200,000 Australians have a ‘high level’ problem with gambling while up to twice as many have difficulties at a ‘lower level’. On an average, Australians spend approximately A$1,300 per capita a year on gambling.  The next highest is around A$600 in Singapore. We far exceed any other country on Earth and that is because we have so many gambling opportunities.” The report went on to say “Gambling losses in Australia are at a record high after punters fritted away almost A$24bn in a year (more than half was lost on poker or slot machines in clubs and pubs).”  According to a new analysis by the Australian Gambling Research Centre an estimated 6.8 million Australians are regular gamblers.

What can we do about this when we are encouraged to bet during sporting fixtures broadcast on television; sporting and other clubs around the country encourage us to “try the pokies”; the Casinos encourage us to try our luck and so on?  Gambling can start off in such a small way but can lead to loss of jobs; jail time; loss of homes and families; domestic violence; depression and suicide to state a few end results.

Digital Environment: Information published in the latest Australian Council of Children and the Media (ACCM) Bulletin and taken from the Disrupted Childhood Report by the 5Rights Foundation states. “In recent months, concerns have been raised about the extent to which surveillance data gathered by government agencies may have been sold or shared with the impact not yet known. The current generation of children are the first to have data collected about them at every stage of their life and many parents start constructing a digital profile before their child is even born.  Children are stating they could not do without their mobile phone for a day; panicked if they did not know what was going on; reaching for their ‘phones in the middle of the night, etc. Teachers are complaining that children rely on their ‘phones and don’t engage with them at the same level; that many children now prefer to sit at lunch and play on their personal devices instead of interacting with one another. Many families only interact via their devices.”

Mental Health in Rural and Remote Areas: A report published by Mission Australia Youth Survey in June 2018 states that almost one in four young people in regional and remote Australia had a probable serious mental illness. While the prevalence of mental health disorders is similar for people living in and outside a major city, research has shown the risk of suicide rises as distance from a major city increases.  Research shows that these young people struggle to access the same level of support services as young people in urban areas.  They turn to family and friends for support, so therefore parents, teachers, counsellors and sporting coaches need to be provided with appropriate skills and support to help these young people.

Behaviour On Campus at Universities: Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins is urging Australian Universities to continue the work needed to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assaults on campus and in residential colleges. She stated that all 39 Universities had accepted the majority of the Commission’s recommendations in the Change the Course. More information on this can be found on https://www.humanrights.gov.au/audit-2017   .

Bullying: An Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce has been established by the State Government.  The Taskforce will engage with children, parents, schools and communities, and experts to draw upon best practice research and identify community driven strategies and initiatives that address the complex causes of bullying and cyberbullying.

Other areas of concern being addressed in Reports include:

(a) National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell is calling on Australian Governments to ensure all pregnant and parenting teenagers have access to education, a basic human right and a crucial tool for breaking the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage.                                                                                                                          (b) Australian Institute of Family Studies Director, Anne Hollonds stated that a research report found a need for increased support for Grandparents caring for vulnerable relatives living out-of-home. It would appear they were less likely than foster-carers to have access to professional support and training they needed for their roles.  This is despite having been approached in many cases by child protection agencies to take on the care of the relative.

There are so many areas still to be addressed such as the death of innocent children in custody battles; the ongoing elder abuse and domestic violence; creating child-safe organisations; the growing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care.

Affiliated organisations are urged to look at the social issues mentioned and consider joining their voice and ideas with those of NCWQ to address some of these issues.

NCWQ Child and Family Report, September 2017

By Marjorie Voss OAM

NCWQ Child and Family Adviser

Domestic and Family Violence; Child Abuse and Neglect; Child Sexual Abuse; Elder Abuse; Sexual Abuse and Assault; Bullying; Homelessness; Poverty; and Suicide. I addressed these topics in my report last year, but has anything improved during the last twelve months?

CHILD SAFETY: In June this year the Queensland Government announced it will inject $200 million over four years into the child protection system to fund more child safety staff to reduce caseloads; improve practice and increase support to children, parents and carers. It comes in addition to a number of measures to strengthen child protection and family support that will be progressed in 2017-18 bringing the total budget for child and family services to more than $1.1 billion. New projects are also being rolled out to improve awareness in schools and organisations of Child Abuse (Supporting Families Changing Futures). In my report last year I noted that this was the intention of the Government, and this shows that Child Safety is now a priority and necessary steps are being taken to improve the safety of children.

Although this might help in the protection of children, there is still the need to stop the root cause of abuse. In a report from the ABC in April this year it was stated that one-third of children who came into the care of Queensland’s Department of Child Safety in 2016 had parents who use or have used methamphetamines (ICE). Of the 749 children reported, 59% were neglected; 29% experienced emotional harm; 11% were physically harmed and 1% had experienced sexual abuse. How do we deal with this?

ELDER ABUSE: Seniors Minister Coralee O’Rourke has stated that the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit had received more than 1,500 notifications of abuse (up from approx. 1,300) in the previous year. This could be a positive sign that more people are reporting elder abuse or a negative in that more older people are being abused. The positive side is that the Queensland Government has committed a $2.7 million boost over the next 3 years to expand Elder Abuse prevention and seniors legal and support services to regional and remote areas as well as the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast. It will also include the expansion of the Seniors Enquiry Line, enabling a strong focus on consumer protection and scams. With older people knowing they have support, they are standing up for themselves and proving they will not accept abuse in any form. Sons and daughters rate highest in the Financial and Physical abuse, also grandchildren. Daughters rate highest in Neglect and Psychological abuse. It has been found that Physical abuse reduces in the 60+ age group but Financial abuse increases.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: We know that the numbers relating to Domestic Violence are horrifying. We are informed that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 20 men have experienced violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15. We read that one woman dies every week on account of violence. It has been reported that 71 women died from violence in 2016. Domestic Violence (and any violence) does not affect just two people. It has a devastating effect on children, the extended family and the community. However changes are being made and in 2016 there were 9 fewer deaths than in 2015.

Governments are providing more money and resources to enable the notification of abuse and the access of services. Organisations, community bodies, schools, workplaces, sporting groups and individuals are being urged to take up the Not Now Not Ever challenge to respond to Domestic and Family violence. They are already making a difference across Queensland. Even the smallest act of compassion may not be able to stop Domestic Violence but it can add esteem and make a difference to the life of someone suffering or has suffered Domestic Violence. The ‘No More Silence’ campaign is an initiative that has been developed by the Domestic and Family Committee – Wagga Wagga (DFVC). CADA has been granted permission to re-develop the campaign in the Moreton Bay Region. It has been recognised that quite often women (and men) form a bond with their hairdresser or beauty specialist and will open up to them about problems they wouldn’t normally discuss with family or friends. With this in mind, a resource package has been developed to provide support to practitioners when they are faced with the disclosure of Domestic Violence, to (1) Enable salons to provide what could be crucial information to women who have disclosed their experience of violence and (2) Will provide the women themselves with vital options in relation to support and assistance. Access to this type of information could save the life of a woman or child. This is already working in the region and has shown results. One hairdresser is providing free services to some of the women who have been clients of CADA and this has boosted their self-esteem. She is calling the project “Hairdressers with Heart” and is hoping more hairdressers will join her in providing a service.

NCWQ is continually working towards achieving positive outcomes for the social Issues listed at the beginning of this Report. In June this year NCWQ delegates attended the NCWA mid-term conference in Canberra. Some of the topics covered were – Older Women and Homelessness; Economic Security for Older Women experiencing homelessness; Root cause of violence against women (addressing Pornography, Sexualisation of women in the media, Sex discrimination); Violence against women and homelessness in Indigenous communities and Explicit Sexual Imagery. An interesting mix for discussion of these topics took place with the young women joining the conference for the launch of National Council of Young Women of Australia (NCYWA).

As we endeavor to solve the problems of the Social Issues confronting us, we must be prepared to share our information and ideas, pool our resources and work together for the good of the whole community.

Further help available for homeless women

By Marjorie Voss OAM

NCWQ Child and Family Adviser

In February I received an email from the CEO of the Lady Musgrave Trust, Karen Lyon Reid which read in part as follows.     “ Today we are proud to announce that The Lady Musgrave Trust is launching ‘The Handy Guide’ mobile website application, potentially helping thousands of women without safe and secure accommodation in Queensland, to access services and support.

The Handy Guide is one of the most important documents we produce. It contains emergency contacts, sheltered accommodation support, legal services, health and nutrition services and counseling for homeless women.

The Handy Guide mobile website is currently available for Brisbane, but from April this year, the digital Handy Guide will also cover regional areas of Cairns, Townsville, Ipswich, Mt.Isa, Maroochydore, Mackay, Caboolture, Toowoomba and Bundaberg.

The Handy Guide mobile website can be used on desktops, smartphones and tablets. The interactive map allows a user to key in their location and find the services they require, which are closest to them.

If you are a Service Provider, you are also able to have a say in the content included in the physical copy of The Handy Guide and the mobile website version. Included on the website is a tab for Service Providers to update information or request to be listed in The Handy Guide.

We would like to acknowledge the support from the State Government’s Dignity First Funding (an initiative by the Department of Housing and Public Works), from Centacare and Griffith University. Without their support, The Handy Guide mobile website would not be possible.

To visit The Handy Guide mobile website, use https://thehandyguide.com/. “

Karen is encouraging us to share this link across social media, with family and friends and with any homeless or near-homeless women, we may come in contact with. If you follow this link you will also find a Media release from the Hon. Mick de Brenni containing further information and also stating that $50,000 was received by the Lady Musgrave Trust to assist with The Handy Guide mobile website.

While the above project will help so many homeless women in Queensland I have another much smaller but nevertheless caring project which is helping to restore dignity to some women right on my doorstep on Bribie Island. My hairdresser in her aim to give dignity to and support women suffering from homelessness and domestic violence in the community is providing two ladies (and their children) every week with free pampering in her salon. They may also take for themselves anything they need from two large baskets containing essential/luxury/children’s items which are regularly donated by my hairdresser and her clients. The various ladies who attend each week are recommended by Domestic Violence personnel and reports have it that this small caring act is having a positive effect on their wellbeing. My hairdresser is hoping that maybe all hairdressers on Bribie Island and further afield may choose to open their doors to provide this small but important act which shows that people care.

It just goes to prove that even though we need the Government and bigger organisations to work on the “bigger picture of domestic violence and homelessness” even the smallest act of kindness and “hands-on” help by individuals and smaller organisations can have a positive effect on those in need. 

 

Child and Family Report

By Marjorie Voss OAM

NCWQ Child & Family Adviser

Child abuse is nothing new and we trust the Authorities to look after the children who are at risk.  However in the latest episode of Child Abuse I feel that we must all be shocked and horrified that a little child like Mason Jet Lee should be allowed to suffer and die from such horrific injuries.  

He could not speak for himself or defend himself…..he had nobody to see what he was suffering.  The only chance he had of survival was when, it has been stated, his Aunt notified Authorities that he was living in squalor with his mother……nothing was done as supposedly  Authorities had no address for the mother.  He did have a second chance when he was admitted to hospital with injuries, but was sent “home” to be abused again, even though the doctors notified Authorities of their concerns.

What can we do to stop such Child Abuse happening in our so-called civilized communities?  It would seem that the Authorities follow directions but are not prepared to “step out of the box” when they are notified of such outright abuse.  Why was the situation not followed up by the Hospital? It appears that   the clinicians fulfilled their duties to report Mason Jet Lee’s injuries to the Child Safety Department before his release.  Why was nothing further done?

We have been told that a separate, independent investigation has been launched.  How long will this take and how many more children will be abused and or die before changes are made?

I feel that in this instance all NCWQ affiliated groups and members must stand up and demand that  more protection should be given to children at risk.  Young children are not able to ask for help so we need to help them. We need to be aware of what is happening in our neighbourhood.

There has been a recent case in Queensland of 2 girls aged 12 and 14 whose parents have now been charged with rape and sodomy.  One of the girls eventually alerted a friend to what was happening.  How long had this been going on?

A report has just been released from the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services stating that the Queensland Government has committed to building a new child and family support system over the next 10 years that will have a greater focus on supporting families to provide a safe and secure home for their children.  To deliver the reforms they will focus on seven key areas:

  1. Sharing responsibility for children’s safety and wellbeing…..Caring for children and keeping them safe will be a shared responsibility.  Government, non-government agencies, communities, businesses and industry are working together to deliver the right services families need to raise children who are safe, well, healthy and supported.
  2. Supporting families earlier….Vulnerable families and children will have access to high-quality services at the right time to help them to maintain the family unit.  Children and young people will be at the centre of the new system, with supported and supportive parents, families, communities.
  3. Working better with families in contact with the child protection system…Child protection practice will be focused on engaging with families earlier and where appropriate, keeping children safely at home.
  4. Meeting the needs and requirements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities…Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families will have access to culturally appropriate Indigenous-specific and mainstream services and care.
  5. Improving out-of-home care and post-care for children and young people… Where there are no acceptable alternatives, children and young people will be taken into care, and protected and cared for.  In care, they will receive the support they need to enjoy their childhood, feel safe and cared for, and develop into adulthood.
  6. Delivering quality services to children and families through a capable, motivated workforce and client-focused organisations…Vulnerable children and families will receive quality services from a highly skilled, capable and professional workforce across government and non-government family and child sectors.
  7. Building an accountable, transparent and cost-effective system…Services provided to vulnerable children and families will be high-quality and provided in an efficient, transparent and accountable manner.

The reforms appear to focus on helping families to better care for their children.  Will it work or will there be families who are just not interested in caring for their children and will continue to allow abuse  to take place?

I urge everyone who is interested in the welfare of  families and children to continue to monitor what is happening and  follow “supporting families changing futures……Providing the right services at the right time for families in need”  on their website.