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.
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.