Our Commitment to Social Change
Currently in Victoria many families are finding themselves isolated from basic services through factors such as social isolation, rapid urban development and regional decline. Entrenched unemployment in particular locales and growing income inequality heighten the need to tackle the root causes of child abuse and neglect. Families and children who most need access to support when children are young are often the last to have access to that support. Overlaying this, climate change, the impact of technology on how we relate, increasing levels of substance dependency, problem gambling and a proliferation of violent images in all forms of media create challenges for all families.
We have sought to transform communities through the recognition of children’s rights, the empowerment of women, the prevention of poverty, child abuse and neglect and through the promotion of social inclusion. Empathy for families as they confront hardships beyond their control and the challenge of raising children have driven us to move beyond the 19th and early 20th century approach of ‘child rescue’ to a focus on supporting family and community well-being.
Recognising that families don’t conform to a nuclear (or other) model but are formed and change through a web of relationships and interactions, we respect all families for their uniqueness. The continuing story of Australia as a culturally diverse nation of Indigenous peoples and migrants is a strength we can build upon by learning from this diversity of cultures about approaches to raising children well. Yet cultural differences in approaches to raising children can at times be viewed as something to eliminate rather than something to learn from. Aboriginal families and communities have in particular suffered most from the cultural blindness that prevents their strengths from being acknowledged
Appreciating that the development of children and young people is supported through the active involvement of women and men we promote inclusive practice and support women and men to care for their children. Dialogue with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s has helped us see the harm of past policies of child and family separation, led us to apologise for this harm and motivated us to advocate for the full development of Aboriginal community based services. Learning the lessons of the generational harm done to children in institutional care has seen as embrace the Forgotten Australians and stand with them to have this harm acknowledged and their rights and needs met.
Report after report has highlighted the failures within our child protection system and the confronting reality that each year over 6,000 Victorian children need to be removed from their families because of serious abuse and/or neglect. Foster care and other care options for these children are struggling to cope with the influx. Promising efforts towards prevention of abuse and neglect in Victoria remain modest. We need to tip the scales towards prevention and families that are living in places and circumstances that make raising children well increasingly difficult need access to a decent standard of support and assistance.
Our challenge is to - learn from our involvement in the lives of families, children and communities and articulate a contemporary public policy agenda – to continue to advocate in the interests of vulnerable children and families and promote social change. Clearly there is no shortage of issues to pursue. We can’t do it all but we can do some of it and some of it, more than any other organisation, we are best placed to do.