Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 6 September 1993
Page: 984

Senator BROWNHILL (Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia) (10.41 p.m.) —Yesterday marked the start of National Child Protection Week. It was the fourth annual event staged by NAPCAN, the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. In a modern society, tragically, never have children been more at risk both here and overseas than they are at the moment. Nightly on our television screens we see images of children caught in the cross-fire of adult wars in Bosnia, Somalia and Ireland, and on our Asian doorstep we have the appalling and shameful trade in child prostitution—an industry, thriving, I am disgusted to say, in part because of Australians who travel to Asian countries for that purpose.

  At home our children also face danger. During August, six children were killed as a result of domestic violence. It is a daily occurrence for some families. Some children never know what it is like to have peace in the home, never know what it is like not to be abused physically or mentally by their parents. As pressure increases on families through unemployment and other worries, stressful conditions mean that parents increasingly are not coping. They take out their frustrations on their children, and sometimes that frustration leads to serious injury or to death.

  One of the messages for parents this week is that it is not okay to shake babies. Babies have very soft brains and their blood vessels are fragile; they break and bleed easily. When you shake a baby you are hitting its brain against the hard, bony skull. Shaking a baby is not an acceptable alternative to smacking. Throwing a baby high in the air to catch it is not safe, either. Yet throwing and shaking are quite common for babies.

  NAPCAN is active 12 months of the year, and not just for child abuse and neglect prevention week. It publishes a range of very useful brochures and booklets which all parents should read. Domestic violence is something we should all be aware of. The old NIMBY principle is all very well, but it does not apply when the safety of children is at stake.

  Launched today is a pertinent publication for our present economic time by Rosemary Stanton, a leading nutritionist. The name of it is Feeding a family on a budget. Parents are finding it harder and harder to afford three meals a day for their families, despite the fact that food in Australia is among the cheapest and the best in the world. It is an indictment of any Australian government, and particularly in 1993 modern Australia, that schools are being forced to put on breakfasts for their students because so many children were coming to school without breakfast. Many schools have overcome problems of truancy and disruption in class by simply ensuring that children have food in their stomachs.

  On any night there are some 200,000 children sleeping in the streets in Australia. That, again, is an indictment of our society. This is not a Third World country we are talking about—this is happening today in our own towns and cities around Australia.

  One activity with which NAPCAN has become involved is the rural health support education and training program, supported by the New South Wales state government and the federal government as well as non-government organisations. It has been established at Orange. It aims to encourage optimal health for rural and remote communities and works on the NAPCAN concept of neighbourhood network and extends it to provide community based training. Neighbour network is a low-key community arrangement for alleviating stress which, as I said, can lead to abusive situations in the home. It was established in 1989 but has only had minimal success. It is hoped that the formal vocationally trained volunteers will expand the scheme.

  I would urge all senators to think about what contribution they can make to alerting the public to the dangers children face today and also to think about what we can all do to listen more to children, to hear what they are trying to tell us, and to care for them and their future. Children are people too. That is the message the NAPCAN people are trying to give us. My congratulations on the good work that Anne Greenwood, Rosemary Sinclair, the honorary professional adviser Professor Kim Oates and all the others associated with NAPCAN are doing to help the children in our community.