As we reported last week, Child Protection Week was launched with outstanding award recipients being recognised during the Queensland Child Protection Week 2017 Awards ceremony. This week over 100 events have taken place all over Queensland to share the key messages of child protection week.    The Queensland Child Protection Week Committee works throughout the year to ensure that communities are supported in assisting all Queenslanders in understanding the complexities of child protection and how they can play their part.  Paying attention to children and hearing what they say is key.  So too is supporting families.  Engaging in community education to prevent abuse and promote child and family wellbeing is another key opportunity.

Prevention messages were highlighted during NAPCAN’s annual Child Protection Week breakfast.  President Teresa Scott spoke to current research about the vital importance of child abuse prevention and launched NAPCAN’s Continuum of Wellbeing film.  She also spoke to the significant expanse of time in which communities can make a difference long before any statutory intervention is required.  Such preventative responses can alleviate the need for tertiary interventions.

Minister Fentiman spoke about the Queensland government’s partnership with NAPCAN through which over 140,000 people have taken part in the child safe workshops.  She also acknowledged the vital contribution to decision making by the growing number of experts who make child protection their career.

Guest Speaker Prof Stephen Smallbone spoke on preventing child maltreatment. He noted that abusive behaviour, like other human behaviour, always occurs as a result of the interaction between the characteristics of the abuser and the characteristics of the situation in which the abuse occurs. Future crime is six times more predictable by the address of its occurrence than by the identity of the offender – why aren’t we thinking more about wheredunit, rather than just whodunit?”  (Sherman, 1995). He asserted that it is much easier to make situations safer than to identify who the risky individuals might be.

In terms of a place based approach, he outlined that domestic settings are by far the most likely setting for child maltreatment and the most challenging setting for primary prevention.  Organisational settings demonstrate a small but significant proportion of incidents and are highly amenable to systematic, place-based prevention efforts.  Whilst public settings are highly amenable to prevention, it is difficult to identify hot spots and hot times.  Virtual settings have many potential prevention agents.

He stated that situational prevention principles have wide application and require:

  • Increased effort – Make the problem behaviour more difficult and more inconvenient to enact
  • Increased risk – Make it more likely that problem behaviour will be observed and detected
  • Reduced rewards – Interrupt risky behaviours; early detection is important
  • Reduced temptations – Indentify and monitor/remove triggers for abuse-related motivations
  • Removal of excuses – Clarify rules and expectations, personalise children and clarify consequences.

In the highlight of the breakfast, The Queensland NAPCAN Inspiring Prevention Initiatives Play Your Part Award was bestowed upon the Crèche and Kindergarten Association for Family Place in Logan.  This friendly welcoming space offers a wide range of free activities and a universal soft entry point for families to connect with each other.  In preventing social isolation and providing a wide range of services to children and families, including access to an array of professionals, this centre welcomes hundreds of community members through its doors each week.

At the Remembrance Day ceremony this week we were reminded of the years of toil of our Historical Abuse Network members who this year won an unprecedented accolade in receiving two Queensland Child Protection Week Awards: the Volunteer Award and the Education Initiative Award.  We were reminded of the cost of child abuse and the tenacity, resilience and sheer will it takes to achieve justice and prevent such abuses from ever occurring again.  Collectively Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman and Micah Projects CEO Karyn Walsh noted the horrific atrocities experienced by survivors of institutional abuse and committed to work together to alleviate child abuse.  Premier Palaszczuk also made a commitment to establish the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce as requested by the Historical Abuse Network members.

Hundreds attended this landmark Child Protection Week event including survivors, dignitaries and representatives of the child protection sector.  The moving ceremony concluded with a commemoration of Forgotten Australians who spent decades tenaciously finding their voice and finding a forum to be heard.  This includes: the Stolen Generation, people who as children were in the out of home care system, those who experienced institutional abuse, those affected by Forced Adoptions, Young People and those who provided advocacy and support.

Karyn Walsh’s speech outlined the phenomenal contribution survivors have made to child protection, not only in Queensland but also nationally and internationally.  In a stunning tribute, she outlined both the costs and the triumphs.

Official child protection week events conclude this evening with the annual Child Protection Week Dinner, with Master of Ceremonies Channel 7s Kay McGrath returning for yet another event after being MC at both the Awards and Remembrance Day ceremonies.  Tonight’s guest speaker, Author Rebecca Sparrow will share some words of wisdom whilst the 370 child protection delegates have an opportunity to network and celebrate the spirit of Child Protection Week.  Activities around Queensland will continue until its close tomorrow.

To find out more about the key messages and events, visit the website.