UnitingCare Australia’s vision is for all children and young people in Australia to have access to the support and opportunities they need to be healthy, happy, and actively contributing citizens in Australian society.
This means recognising that well-functioning families are best placed to support and protect children, and committing to ensure that children live in safety and free from poverty.
The issues we face
A number of recent studies have highlighted that too many young Australians aged between 8-14 years suffer from poor health and wellbeing and miss out on opportunities, particularly if they are from marginalised backgrounds (ACWP, 2016).
This is particularly the case for young people with disability, young carers, those who are materially disadvantaged, and Indigenous, culturally and linguistically diverse and LGBTI youth, or those from rural and remote Australia (ACWP, 2016).
Among the main barriers these young people face are high levels of health complaints, bullying, low levels of engagement at school and low levels of social support.
Child poverty also continues to have a serious impact on the welfare of young Australians.
Young people are overrepresented in Australian poverty statistics, with recent data revealing one in four of the 2.5 million Australians living below the poverty line are children – that’s 625,000 Australian children.
Poverty experienced in the early years has a number of detrimental effects including financial stress and exclusion from everyday activities that form a vital part of early learning and development, leading to isolation and exclusion.
It can also mean growing up without a secure family home, which can negatively impact on child development and health – both physical and psychological (BSL, 2000).
These are all challenges that impede children’s growth and development and which are highly likely to negatively impact their future lives.
Homelessness is also having a considerable impact on young Australians. Mission Australia’s 2016 Child and Youth Homelessness Report highlights that up to one in seven young people could be at risk of homelessness (Mission Australia, 2016).
Their research demonstrates that young people who spend time away from home are much more likely to be concerned about family conflict, depression, coping with stress and suicide than those who do not have to leave home.
Addressing the cycle of homelessness is vital to increasing the health and wellbeing of young people in Australia.
In addition, reducing the need for child protection services is paramount. Rates for children in substantiations, on care and protection orders, and in out-of-home care, continue to increase.
Indigenous children are 7 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be receiving child protection services and, significantly, 1 in 37 Australian children receive child protection services each year (AIHW, 2016).
The need to promote and enhance the safety and wellbeing of Australia’s children is vital in ensuring that all young people in Australia enjoy the same opportunities and quality of life.
Children, Young People and Families Network
UnitingCare's Children, Young People and Families (CYPF) Network works with the National Office to identify issues requiring national action. Members of this Network are drawn from across the broader UnitingCare network.
The role of the CYPF Network is to develop, review and reflect upon the policies and practices of the Uniting Church in its community services ministry with people; and contribute to the advocacy of UnitingCare Australia.