2019 Messages

ACT Children’s Week Patron
The Hon Margaret Reid AO

“Children have a right to good quality health care, to clean water, to nutritious food and a clean environment” – this is so they will stay healthy.

If they stay healthy they will do better at school and be much more likely to fulfil their potential in life. This applies to our children and to all children everywhere.

It does not seem to ask for much and yet in so many places on this planet children lack all or some of the basic rights. We all have a responsibility to celebrate Children’s Week as we are privileged to do the ACT, we acknowledge not only the achievements of our Children

but also the needs which are not met.

We especially acknowledge and honour the many many volunteers like those attending the launch who by their love and commitment make such a difference to the lives of children.

Without the Children’s Week Committee none of this amazing ACT program would be available.

Sincerely we thank the committee members for their year long work to bring us this program.

The Hon Margaret Reid AO
ACT Children’s Week Patron


ACT Children’s Week Ambassador
Jackie French – AM
Award winning author
2015 Senior Australian of the Year
2014/15 Australian Children’s Laureate

‘Children have the right to good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so that they will stay healthy‘.

Imagine kids laughing with their family at the dinner table, fresh food, glasses of fresh water, a bowl of fruit, a backyard or a nearby park with grass and trees. It’s a cliché of the good life in Australia. It is also deeply vulnerable.

We live in a world where normality can suddenly vanish.  As the drought and over exploitation of our water worsens more areas of Australia suddenly have poor quality water, or none at all.  Global fish stocks plummet. Contaminated prewashed lettuce may affect the nation.

Our medical system no longer copes even with the ‘normal’, much less disaster or epidemics. That happy image may hide the unpaid mortgage; a dodgy building contractor; vulnerable casual jobs. Illness, sudden unemployment or natural disaster can mean that family is homeless tomorrow.

This is a world where melting glaciers in Greenland can lead to homes washing away in Perth; radioactivity in Japan affect fish stocks across the East coast. What global disaster will be in the news today, or tomorrow? The jet stream is slowing and the tide is rising for all of us.

‘Our children have a right to…’ is the most important part of that UN declaration. As human beings our greatest duty is to our children. Every tonne of carbon dioxide we emit, every extinction, every forest or river system destroyed, every tanker load of pollution we contribute to, is at the expense of those who will come after us.

But I’m a historian and an optimist. Humans are at their best and worst when things are bad. The best hold out hands to help. The worst build walls so they don’t have to see the suffering of those in need. But no wall lasts forever.  In a time of global crises, it probably doesn’t matter in which direction you hold out your hand to help. The simple act of helping brings us together.

Each Children’s Week in the ACT we celebrate our local heroes, those who hold out their hands to help children find a good life, and keep it secure. But though our heroes feet may be planted in the ACT, one person doing good can inspire a dozen, a hundred, or a million.

Who knows how far across the world the hands we celebrate this year will reach?


Vicki Brown

President, ACT Children’s Week Committee

Welcome to Children’s Week 2019. We are looking forward to an exciting week of happy activities celebrating our children and young people and their achievements and aspirations. However, this is also a time for serious reflection about the world we are creating for our children and the many challenges they will be facing in the future.

This has been brought into sharp focus by the recent climate change protest by Australian school children and by Greta Thunberg’s passionate speech to world leaders at the UN. It is also implicit in this year’s theme for Children’s Week: Children have the right to good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so that they will stay healthy. (Article 24, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) In the ACT, most
people take these ‘rights’ for granted but, even here, there are children and young people facing enormous difficulties in their everyday lives.

Children’s Week is a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the many amazing people, young and not so young, working to ‘make a difference’ for our children and young people and to ensure that their future is positive. The Committee offers small grants to
organisations to help run activities during the week, to increase awareness of the needs, interest, rights and achievements of children and/or young people and to promote community involvement and cooperation.

The Committee also presents awards which give public recognition to individuals or groups for outstanding contributions to the needs, welfare and interests of children and to young people who are outstanding role models for their peers. Although the awards are non-
competitive, a representative group is chosen to receive their awards at our Launch and Awards Ceremony, held on Universal Children’s Day. This inspiring (and humbling) Ceremony is a highlight of Children’s Week every year.

The ACT Children’s Week Committee is fortunate to have the support of the ACT Government (through the Education and Community Services Directorates), the Catholic Education Office and the Canberra Southern Cross Club. We are members of the Children’s Week Council of Australia which receives support from the Australian Government Department of Education
and Training. We acknowledge and appreciate this support.

However, the work of the Committee is done by a small dedicated team of volunteers and I thank them sincerely for their energy, enthusiasm and efficiency.

Let us all enjoy the many Children’s Week events but also take time to reflect on how we can work together to create a brighter future for all children and young people.

Vicki Brown


Jodie Griffiths-Cook

Public Advocate and Children and Young People Commissioner, ACT Human Rights Commission

The theme of this year’s Children’s Week is that ‘Children have the right to good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so that they will stay healthy’. This is essential to the wellbeing of our children and young people, and the majority of children and young people in the ACT are faring well in this regard.

The recently released ‘Picture of Children and Young People in the ACT 2018’ tells us that immunisation rates have improved, homelessness rates have reduced, and the majority of children and young people are eating adequate serves of fruit. Conversely, however, there has been a worrying increase in the proportion of young people reporting high levels of psychological distress and an upward trend in the proportion of children and young people who are overweight or obese.

In my role as the ACT Children and Young People Commissioner, I continually emphasise the important protective factor that comes with engaging children and young people about issues impacting their lives. Health and wellbeing is no exception.

In a recent consultation we undertook about the proposed ACT Year 7 Health Check, it was clear that young people are keenly aware that being healthy involves far more than just physical health. The young people involved were also clearly attuned to the differing needs and comfort levels of children and young people when it comes to discussing health matters. They were equally clear about how important it is to ensure children and young people have the opportunity to decide how information about their health and wellbeing needs is accessed and used.

Further, in a survey we issued in early 2019, nearly 15% (the second highest proportion) of responses received to open-ended questions about what would make life better for children and young people related to concerns about health and wellbeing. This is clearly an area that children and young people are keen to voice their thoughts about.

There is much that we, as adults, can learn from children and young people in seeking to understand their experience of the world around them and the ideas they have about making changes for the better. Investing in processes that harness the expertise of children and young people will help us make sure that Canberra is both child safe and child friendly… a place where children and young people are confident they will be taken seriously about things that matter. And a place where their views inform decision-making about how best to improve their health and wellbeing.

As always, I would like to extend my support to the ACT Children’s Week Committee. I look forward to being part of the Children’s Week 2019 celebrations, and to continuing my own learning journey as the children and young people of the ACT educate me about what is important in their lives.

Warm regards,

Jodie Griffiths-Cook


A Message from Rachel Stephen-Smith MLA
ACT Minister for Children, Youth and Families

Children’s week celebrates the right of children to enjoy childhood. The Week provides an opportunity for us to celebrate the talents, skills and abilities of children, through events and activities organised at both the national and local level.

Children’s Week also reminds us that too many children, within our own community and from around the world, are denied the basic necessities of a happy and healthy childhood.

The theme for Children’s Week 2019 is Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ‘Children have the right to good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so that they will stay healthy. Richer countries should help poorer countries achieve this.’

I believe now more than ever we need to be listening to our children, acknowledging their issues and addressing their concerns to give them hope for the future.

Children deserve the best start in life and making sure they are healthy both physically and mentally is an important part of this.

The ACT Government is working to transform our approach to issues affecting children and young people. This includes developing new plans for children’s health services to make sure Canberran children have the healthiest start in life and can access the highest quality specialist paediatric services when they need them.

This Children’s Week, I look forward to joining children and their families across our community in activities that promote and engage their health and wellbeing.

Have a great time this Children’s Week!

Rachel Stephen-Smith MLA
Minister for Children, Youth and Families


A Message from Gordon Ramsay MLA
Minister for Seniors and Veterans

I am very pleased the Government is again supporting Children’s Week, including financial support through the Office for Seniors and Veterans.

I am also grateful that the ACT Children’s Week Committee has again asked me to provide a message to you all. It provides me with the chance to say some important things about intergenerational connections in the development of children.

We already know how big a role many older Canberrans play in helping their adult children and supporting their grandchildren. But why is this interaction so important?

It makes a difference because children tend to have a better idea of who they are and their own family story. The adult children, who may be feeling overwhelmed, are assisted knowing their parent is there to help and provide perspective. And, the seniors who experience this intergenerational interaction usually have better physical and emotional wellbeing.

In the ACT we believe intergenerational engagement is important and recognise it as part of our Children’s Week Awards through the Intergenerational Contribution Award category and the Exceptional Older Person award.

A goal of this government is to make Canberra an Age-Friendly City and we are currently working on a plan to make this happen. You can help us achieve this by recognising and celebrating all those older Canberrans who play a vital role in the lives of our children during Children’s Week.

Gordon Ramsay MLA
Minister for Seniors and Veterans


A Message from Yvette Berry MLA
ACT Minister for Education

2019 Children’s Week message

Almost 50,000 children and young people attend one of Canberra’s 88 public schools every school day.

It’s really important to the ACT Government that we take the time to talk to students and make sure we are meeting their needs.  In fact, the first foundation of the ACT Government’s 10-year Future of Education strategy is to place students at the centre of their learning.

As one student explained, “I know that every child learns differently and has different things going on in their lives and so everybody needs to be supported to take into account their different needs so that they get a really great education and have fun at school.”

This year’s Children’s Week theme is Children have the right to good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so that they will stay healthy.

The ACT Government knows that child wellbeing is critical to learning, and believes that preschools and schools should be places where children love to learn and play. Some ways the ACT Government works to achieve this in our school environments include modernising and expanding existing schools; building new schools to cater for demand in growth areas; creating indoor and outdoor sensory spaces; and making classrooms more comfortable, such as with cooling upgrades.

It is also important to support our students to make healthy choices.  Water refill stations are available at schools, school canteens offer a range of healthy options, and health and physical education is a key part of the Australian Curriculum.  School psychologists, allied health professionals and the School Youth Health Nurse Program are also available through schools along with the Healthcare Access at School program for students who need this extra support.

I’m looking forward to celebrating fantastic children and young people in the ACT during Children’s Week, and every other week, and encourage others to do the same.

Yvette Berry MLA

Deputy Chief Minister

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development


A Message from the Director General

Community Services Directorate



Each year, I look forward to the annual Children’s Week celebrations, which provide a welcome opportunity to celebrate children and young people in our local community.

As Director-General of the Community Services Directorate, I proudly lead a directorate that aims to deliver excellence through client centred services to empower people to meet their full potential and enable the development of inclusive and strong communities.

The United Nations Children’s Week 2019 theme – ‘Children have the right to good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so that they will stay healthy’ – aligns with the work that we undertake at the Community Services Directorate.

The Community Services Directorate embraces policies and services that focus on the needs of children. We have the Child and Family Centres that support families during the important early years of a child’s life, as we know that this period sets the foundation for future health development and learning. The Child and Family Centres provide a range of universal, targeted and tailored services that are based on the needs of children and their families, and have a strong emphasis on providing outreach services.

We provide free ParentLink resources to promote the importance of effective parenting practices, while also acknowledging that caring for children is often shared by grandparents, relatives, carers, friends and members of the community.

The Child Development Service offers assessment, referral and advice on children’s development for children up to six years of age.

Our Child and Youth Protection Services have the statutory responsibility to support children, young people and families requiring a care of justice response. Child and Youth Protection Services are responsible for facilitating and coordinating services across government for the care and protection of children and young people believed to be at risk of harm. The vision of Child and Youth Protection Services is for children and young people to be safe, strong and connected. Child and Youth Protection Services work in partnership with carers, families and the community to ensure that children and young people are safe and achieve the best possible life outcomes.

I encourage all to participate in this year’s Children’s Week celebrations and support the wellbeing of children in the ACT.

Rebecca Cross


Community Services Directorate