Australia: Youth Summit will focus on "dismal" record

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 10 Nov 1998 08:47:03 -0400


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http://www.smh.com.au:80/news/9811/06/text/pageone4.html
FWD  Sydney Morning Herald - 6 Nov 1998


YOUTH SUMMIT WILL FOCUS ON "DISMAL" RECORD

By Leonie Lamont


The report card for Australia's children was "dismal", according to the
author Thomas Keneally. It showed a country that is the world leader in
suicides among 14- to 19-year-olds, where childhood is buffeted as never
before by unemployment, substance abuse, neglect and hopelessness.

So how to produce a better future for our 4 million young people? The minds
of business, the community, government and young people will be put to the
test in Canberra next month at the National Children's Summit.

Keneally, speaking at the launch of the "Campaign for Children", said: "I
would urge the Australian community to address the ... standard of their
welfare and happiness. If we don't do it out of morality and the pull of
our own genes, we should do it out of self-interest."

"I think we would rather give children equity in their youth than have to
deal with their hard-edged and muscular anger when they become adults."
Lifeline Sydney, one of six Lifeline phone counselling centres in the
metropolitan area, said it took about 5,000 calls a year from young people.
Its director, Ms Anne Lenehan Jones, said up to 8 per cent of those calls
were from young people who were suicidal. Between 2 and 3 per cent of calls
dealt with physical, emotional or sexual abuse. The bulk of calls - 30 per
cent - dealt with relationships problems.

The summit's organisers, the Coalition for Australia's Children, said 90
per cent of homeless children came from abusive, neglectful families, and
there were more than 90,000 cases of children being beaten, raped, burnt,
neglected and abusing drugs and alcohol in 1996. The Herald asked two
prominent figures in the campaign - former Australian of the Year and
retired CEO of the Children's Hospital, Dr John Yu, and the Human Rights
Commissioner, Mr Chris Sidoti - whether too much emphasis was placed in
keeping children in dysfunctional families.

Dr Yu said he had "no doubt that children do best in families that care
about them and love them ... and that sometimes the biological parents are
not the right people for that child.

"Children have little in the way of rights. They are seen as property ...
This is an issue that people and the Government are going to need to face
when we look at whether community and society needs to step in to give
children a better future." It would take a "brave" politician to tackle the
issue, he said. However he warned that poorness did not equal dysfunctional.

Mr Sidoti said while there were large numbers of struggling families, only
a few fell into the category where the children were endangered and should
be removed.

The bottom line was resources and tackling unemployment, he said. "The
things that were taken for granted as being community responsibilities to
support families ... are no longer seen as being a community responsibility.

"It is no wonder that we get kids going off the rails when they are brought
up in poverty, when they are sometimes in families that have two or three
generations of inherited unemployment, when the kinds of support in
education are being whittled away ... no wonder we have children who are
dysfunctional themselves."

Children's representatives will have a veto over final recommendations from
the December 3-5 summit. Websites for young people's suggestions will be
advertised this month.

END FORWARD
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http://www.smh.com.au:80/news/9811/06/text/pageone4.html

FWD  Sydney Morning Herald - 6 Nov 1998



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>YOUTH SUMMIT WILL FOCUS ON
"DISMAL" RECORD


By Leonie Lamont

</paraindent>


The report card for Australia's children was "dismal", according to the
author Thomas Keneally. It showed a country that is the world leader in
suicides among 14- to 19-year-olds, where childhood is buffeted as
never before by unemployment, substance abuse, neglect and
hopelessness.


So how to produce a better future for our 4 million young people? The
minds of business, the community, government and young people will be
put to the test in Canberra next month at the National Children's
Summit.


Keneally, speaking at the launch of the "Campaign for Children", said:
"I would urge the Australian community to address the ... standard of
their welfare and happiness. If we don't do it out of morality and the
pull of our own genes, we should do it out of self-interest."


"I think we would rather give children equity in their youth than have
to deal with their hard-edged and muscular anger when they become
adults." Lifeline Sydney, one of six Lifeline phone counselling centres
in the metropolitan area, said it took about 5,000 calls a year from
young people. Its director, Ms Anne Lenehan Jones, said up to 8 per
cent of those calls were from young people who were suicidal. Between 2
and 3 per cent of calls dealt with physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
The bulk of calls - 30 per cent - dealt with relationships problems.


The summit's organisers, the Coalition for Australia's Children, said
90 per cent of homeless children came from abusive, neglectful
families, and there were more than 90,000 cases of children being
beaten, raped, burnt, neglected and abusing drugs and alcohol in 1996.
The Herald asked two prominent figures in the campaign - former
Australian of the Year and retired CEO of the Children's Hospital, Dr
John Yu, and the Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Chris Sidoti - whether
too much emphasis was placed in keeping children in dysfunctional
families.


Dr Yu said he had "no doubt that children do best in families that care
about them and love them ... and that sometimes the biological parents
are not the right people for that child.


"Children have little in the way of rights. They are seen as property
... This is an issue that people and the Government are going to need
to face when we look at whether community and society needs to step in
to give children a better future." It would take a "brave" politician
to tackle the issue, he said. However he warned that poorness did not
equal dysfunctional.


Mr Sidoti said while there were large numbers of struggling families,
only a few fell into the category where the children were endangered
and should be removed.


The bottom line was resources and tackling unemployment, he said. "The
things that were taken for granted as being community responsibilities
to support families ... are no longer seen as being a community
responsibility.


"It is no wonder that we get kids going off the rails when they are
brought up in poverty, when they are sometimes in families that have
two or three generations of inherited unemployment, when the kinds of
support in education are being whittled away ... no wonder we have
children who are dysfunctional themselves."


Children's representatives will have a veto over final recommendations
from the December 3-5 summit. Websites for young people's suggestions
will be advertised this month.


END FORWARD

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