Incoming National Children’s Commissioner outlines her aspirations for children
Incoming National Children’s Commissioner, Anne Hollonds, has a simple yet complex aim for her time as children’s commissioner – “I want the rights and wellbeing of children and young people to be part of conversations at kitchen tables across Australia.’
Ms Hollonds will share her vision and aspiration for Australia’s children in a National Online Forum on Wednesday 28 October 2020 ahead of commencing formally in the role from 2 November 2020.
“It’s my job to make visible the important issues for children and young people in Australia and how we can make sure their rights and wellbeing are central to our policies and service systems – including education, health, social services, justice and mental health systems,” Ms Hollonds said.
The first opportunity Ms Hollonds will have to introduce herself and her new role will be during National Children’s Week 2020, sponsored by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.
Designated by the United Nations, Universal Children’s Day is on 4 October but is celebrated in Australia as National Children’s Week from 24 October to 1 November. During Children’s Week, states and territories will hold fun and engaging events for families including movie nights, picnics, art competitions, virtual events, garden parties and children’s yoga, as COVID restrictions permit.
“That’s why it’s terrific the Department of Education, Skills and Employment is sponsoring Children’s Week. It’s an opportunity for everyone across Australia, individuals and organisations who understand the importance of childhood and the wellbeing of children and their families, to come together,” Ms Hollonds said.
In 2020, the Children’s Week theme is drawn from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 15 states: “Children have the right to meet together and to join groups and organisations, as long as this does not stop other people from enjoying their rights”.
This, Ms Hollonds said, is an important statement that demonstrates the respect we need to show children, and one which has a particular resonance with the impact of bushfires, drought and COVID-19 on children around Australia, “and that experience of being isolated and disconnected from their friends and family members. We know that kids have experienced really tough times.”
Data from Kids Helpline confirms that COVID-19 lockdown and containment measures, along with other aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, have impacted on the mental health of children and young people, with a 24 per cent rise in mental health and wellbeing counselling nationally since the pandemic hit.
With the increased use of technology, demand for WebChat counselling has surged by 62 per cent compared with the same period last year (March to July).
These issues, and more, will be explored by Ms Hollonds in the National Online Forum on Wednesday 28 October at 3.00pm with Julie Hourigan Ruse, Secretary of the Children’s Week Council of Australia.
During the Forum Ms Hollonds will share her vision and aspiration for Australia’s children and explore how children’s right to connect safely with others has been impacted by drought, bushfire, flood and the global pandemic.
“There are great things happening for children in places across the country, but we also know that many children are missing out on what they need to be able to live well, to learn and play” she said.
To register for the Forum, please see here.