Child and Family, Annual Report 2018

 In Advisers' Reports, Child and Family, Issues

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.

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