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The safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children must be a national priority

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ChildFund Australia works in developing countries to create community and systems change which enables vulnerable children and young people, in all their diversity, to assert and realise their rights.

While we do not deliver programs in Australia at this stage, as a child-focused development organisation we are committed to ending violence against children globally in all its forms. The ChildFund Alliance actively contributed to the positioning of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 16.2 as a core element within the 2030 agenda.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders community leaders have said that the Black Lives Matter protests across the United States reflect a similar history and story of persistent injustice. We hope that the recent protests occurring across Australia are the beginning of a renewed public conversation.

ChildFund has decades of experience working with children and young people in disadvantaged communities and has gained valuable insights.

We understand the fundamental importance of children feeling connected to their communities and living in an environment which is free from harm, including institutionalised violence.

In Australia, the extent to which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people experience police violence, and the rate at which they are being incarcerated, has reached a crisis point. This has been verified by multiple public commissions and inquiries.

We know that feeling safe is critical to a child’s healthy physical and emotional development. A child growing up in an environment where they feel protected is more likely to do well at school, have healthy social relationships with friends and family, and achieve economic independence as adults.

In our work globally, ChildFund’s programs address the root causes of inequality. We know that history matters.

Australia’s past includes a series of failed policies that have caused intergenerational stress for thousands of Aboriginal mothers, fathers, children and their elders.

Today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people continue to experience stark disadvantage in comparison to their non-Indigenous peers. This includes higher rates of poverty and infant mortality, poorer health, shorter life expectancy, and lower levels of education and employment.

As of February 2020, Australia is only on track for two out of its seven Close the Gap targets.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children belong to living cultures that have been maintained for over 60,000 years. There is deep knowledge about ways forward – we in Australia must be committed to careful listening.

ChildFund unequivocally supports the Uluru Statement and the Redfern Statement. We view the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people as profoundly important in designing Australia’s future.

In addition to current efforts, we call on the Australian Government to make the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children an urgent, national priority through concrete commitments to comprehensive child protection and youth justice reform.

We also call on all Australians to continue these conversations in your homes and to engage in the emerging public discourse, led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders, elders, and young people.

More importantly, we encourage you to deeply listen to the stories and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders community leaders and young people.

 

Child-focused international aid agency ChildFund and Oceania Rugby have announced a new partnership to strengthen safeguarding systems for young people participating in rugby activities in the Oceania region.

The wellbeing of young people participating in sport has become an increasingly prominent concern among major sporting bodies, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which has recognised the risks of exploitation and abuse for children.

Through membership with World Rugby, Oceania Rugby is committed to ensuring rugby is a safe sport for all children taking part across the region.

The Child Safeguarding in Sport Project was launched in December 2019, with ChildFund providing technical expertise, tools, training and support to Oceania Rugby to build child safeguarding systems in-line with international best practice.

In 2020, the project will see Oceania Rugby undertake a review of best practice and implementation of a regional framework. In addition to this, two member unions, Nauru Rugby Union and Samoa Rugby Union, will launch workshops on child safeguarding this month.

The increased focus on child safeguarding among sporting bodies has led to the emergence of important new initiatives and policies. This includes the IOC Basic Universal Principles of Good Governance, which makes it compulsory for organisations that belong to the Olympic movement to adopt these principles, implement relevant measures and monitor compliance.

The Child Safeguarding in Sport Project builds on learning and resources developed through ChildFund Australia’s rugby for development program ChildFund Pass It Back.

ChildFund is considered a pioneer organisation in the development of the International Safeguards for Children in Sport and 2017 was awarded the UNICEF Safeguarding Children in Sport Award at the Beyond Sport Global Awards in recognition of its work supporting partner sporting bodies.

The over-riding objective of the project is to ensure that children engaging in rugby across the region will benefit from a safer environment both physically and emotionally.

Oceania Rugby General Manager Bruce Cook said: “Rugby is committed to ensuring player welfare, in all forms and at all levels of the game.

“As the regional governing body of World Rugby, Oceania Rugby is committed to ensuring our game creates dynamic practices and environments where all boys and girls, men and women in our sport can thrive.

“The most fundamental element to a positive sport experience is being safe – physically, emotionally and socially.”

Mr Cook added: “Oceania Rugby is pleased to partner with ChildFund Australia. We’ve worked with ChildFund Australia before and know our organisations share a commitment to achieving high-quality outcomes that are meaningful for our members and their communities.”

ChildFund Pass It Back Director Chris Mastaglio said: “We are very proud to be partnering with Oceania Rugby on this important initiative for children.

“Sport should always be a safe place for children to play, learn and grow, and Oceania Rugby’s commitment to ensuring their sport is safe at all levels is to be commended.”

Working in partnership with Oceania Rugby and its member unions, National Governing Bodies, the project will involve:

  • creating and sustaining safe environments for children in sport through the development of safeguarding standards and processes at the regional and national level;
  • addressing negative social norms with the aim of fostering positive behaviours and deterring harmful ones;
  • establishing a strong evidence base to strengthen learning and inform further development of child safeguarding in sport initiatives (with a focus on the Pacific); and
  • supporting National Governing Bodies to establish links with formal and informal service providers to support case management and response.