A good childhood for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Julian Pocock, Director Public Policy & Practice Development
Julian Pocock, Director Public Policy & Practice Development

In 2007, Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle – or the Little Children Are Sacred Report – exposed the complexity and shame of sexual abuse of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory.

Constant media focus on child abuse in the NT followed. Daily reports in The Australian newspaper and nightly stories on ABC’s Lateline.

They covered, paedophile rings, chronic neglect, kids sniffing petrol, kids roaming the streets day and night and the sexual abuse of kids, including kids abusing other kids. All fueled by a daily diet of pornography and alcohol.

Shocking, awful stuff. Hard to digest, hard to think about and harder to know where to start. But, in time, easy to ignore.

With the 2007 Federal Election looming, the NT intervention was announced in response to this ‘national emergency’.

Just after another election, it’s a good time to ask – has childhood improved for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children?

I’m not sure.

Media stories of neglect and abuse continue. Negative images of Aboriginal kids and families dominate.

Take a look at this photo of a two year old Aboriginal girl from NT in a News.com.au article.

What’s your first thought when you look at it?

At first glance it’s hard not to think she’s been punched.

I had to ask myself, why was that my first thought?

Are we getting any better at providing kids like this with a good childhood?

Social work and domestic violence

Social Work and Domestic Violence: developing critical and reflective practice, by Lesley Laing and Cathy Humphreys
Social Work and Domestic Violence: developing critical and reflective practice, by Lesley Laing and Cathy Humphreys

Lesley and I are doubly excited to be part of the Good Childhood Conference and that Robyn Miller (Principal Child Protection Practitioner, Victoria) will be launching our new book Social Work and Domestic Violence: developing critical and reflective practice.

The Good Childhood Conference reminds us of all that it important to create the context in which children can thrive.

Too often issues of domestic and family violence slip to the background when we talk about children and young people’s vulnerability.

It speaks to the breadth and depth of the conference that the complexity of children’s lives, including the issues of violence and abuse will be explored and discussed.

Our own understandings of domestic and family violence strive to recognise that children live in the context of their family relationships.

Strengthening the mother-child relationship and recognising the importance of accountability and responsibility are two central themes.

For Lesley and I, the book is the culmination of 30 years of working as practitioners, advocates and researchers in the domestic and family violence area. Our book is written for practitioners and for students.

It has chapters relevant to working with children, women and men where there is domestic violence and highlights the importance of working in a multi-agency context.

Issues of diversity are raised at the beginning of every chapter and then worked through as a theme to frame the context for working with children, women and men where issues of violence and abuse provide the backdrop to family life.

With thanks to guest blogger Cathy Humphreys, for this contribution.

Youth participation doesn’t come with instructions

Youth participation needs to be creative, flexible & responsive.
Youth participation needs to be creative, flexible & responsive.

Let’s be honest.

In the youth sector, the education sector and the welfare sector, we are often immersed in adult conversation. Even when we consult, hold focus groups and work alongside young people, the majority of the time we are adults talking to other adults.

At Berry Street, like other organisations across the country, we are committed to raising the bar in youth participation. We believe that young people have a key role in improving the lives of Australian children in the 21st Century.

But how do we support young people to take on this role?

And how can we ensure that young people are getting their fair say about what sustains a good childhood?

In the lead up to The Good Childhood Conference, the staff at the Berry Street Childhood Institute have been working to ensure that young people get their say.

We know that we don’t have all the answers.

We know that holding a national conference that brings adults and young people together will provide many lessons in youth participation. And we know we won’t stop there.

We have been buoyed by the interest of other organisations, and the overwhelming support from individuals (young and old) wanting the opportunity to come together.

Like the many organisations that we have taken inspiration from, we look forward to sharing our experiences with you.

From the youth engagement desk,
Katrina Stone

The Good Childhood Conference welcomes teachers and school leaders!

Tom Brunzell, Senior Advisor, Teaching and Learning

Students reading
Students reading.

Having a good education is a critical part of having a good childhood, so we’ve made sure our Good Childhood Conference features a specific learning stream for educators and school-based support providers.

We think it’s important to support educators to better understand the cognitive skills needed for learning, as well as nurturing character skills like gratitude, mindfulness and positive engagement.

That’s why a number of keynote presentations will focus on flourishing school communities and the science of wellbeing.

First, let’s focus on gratitude. We can assume that gratitude feels good in the moment—for both the giver and the receiver. But did you know that gratitude also promotes sustainable wellbeing outcomes?

In fact research tells us that gratitude is something that we can practice, promote, and develop as a daily wellbeing practice. Dr Lea Waters will share her work on gratitude in schools and talk about how gratitude can transform classroom culture.

Mindfulness can be a powerful foundation for safe and supportive classrooms where students learn strategies to last a lifetime.

We are fortunate to have Dr Craig Hassed presenting at our conference. He will talk about the importance of teaching mindfulness practice in order to empower our children with emotional awareness and positive self-regulation.

And finally, I will be discussing how strong and caring relationships promote positive engagement in the classroom. I wants us to think about addressing students’ needs through the re-conceptualisation of engagement as a mosaic of rhythm, rigor, flow, authentic feedback and a strengths based-curriculum.

Please join us on October 10th & 11th 2013 for these and many other interesting perspectives on how education can contribute to a good childhood.

Register now at http://goodchildhood.org.au/

A great way to start a conference!

Marg Hamley, Director, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Baroness_Connelly_Owen
Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE, Professor Marie Connolly, Jan Owen.

Day One of The Good Childhood Conference will get off to a great start with an array of powerful speakers. 
We really want to challenge conference delegates to consider what a ‘good childhood’ represents in the 21st Century, so we’ve invited three eminently qualified women to stimulate our thinking.

We kick off with the sometimes controversial, but always interesting, Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE. Susan is an English neuroscientist, writer and broadcaster.

She receives a lot of international attention for her forthright views on the impact of modern technologies, particularly social media, on how children and young people think and feel.

Her first presentation at the conference, on day one, takes a broad perspective and has this very long and impressive title – Helping children & young people thrive, achieve and belong: How neuroscience can contribute to framing and identifying the outcomes we want for children and young people in the 21st Century.

Next up, we have Professor Marie Connolly. A few years ago the University of Melbourne enticed this acclaimed social work leader and academic away from New Zealand. Berry Street was thrilled when Marie agreed to be a member of our Board!

Marie is a thoughtful, intelligent and passionate speaker who is bound to provide a new perspective on contemporary childhood. She will be approaching childhood in Australia from a rights perspective.

The morning session concludes with the much lauded Jan Owen AM, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians. Jan will be sharing her vision for young Australians in the 21st Century. She has a very optimistic view of the capacity of young people to create change and has herself always been at the forefront of social change organisations in Australia.

Last year Jan was named Australia’s “Woman of Influence” – expect to be inspired and motivated!

Register now at http://goodchildhood.org.au, and join us on Thursday 10th October for this great line up of speakers

Welcome to The Good Childhood Conference blog!

CEO, Berry Street
Sandie de Wolf AM – CEO, Berry Street

This is a first for me as I join the blogging community!

At Berry Street, we believe that all children should have a good childhood, growing up feeling safe, nurtured and with hope for the future.  Sadly, evidence and our experience over 136 years tells us that this is not a reality for far too many children.

I think there is a lot for us to learn and share about what sustains a good childhood and how we best support those who have not had this experience. One of the key ways forward is bringing together parents’ experience, the knowledge of practitioners and different disciplines.

There are a wide range of terrific speakers lined up for our inaugural The Good Childhood Conference, designed to appeal to different audiences.  Some will be controversial. That’s part of the intention, because we really want to start a broad conversation about childhood.

We hope to have a large contingent of young people at the Conference – as both presenters and participants.

Like the work of Berry Street, our Conference will appeal to people from many different disciplines.  50 workshops will cover areas such as child protection, education, early years, wellbeing, place-based initiatives, family violence, the impact of technology and Out of Home Care.

We couldn’t be doing this without our Sponsors and Supporting Partners. We are especially grateful to the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, who describe their role as helping to build a strong and fair society for all Australians and developing social policies to:

  • Increase opportunities for all Australians to participate in our society and work
  • Promote cohesive and connected society
  • Support basic living standards
  • Support individuals, families and communities to build their capacity

So, please spread the word and I look forward to meeting you at the conference.

Sandie de Wolf, CEO, Berry Street