Anne Hollonds calls for a dedicated children’s minister as part of COVID-19 recovery
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Anne Hollonds calls for a dedicated children’s minister as part of COVID-19 recovery

Anne Hollonds calls for a dedicated children’s minister as part of COVID-19 recovery

by Freya Lucas

February 23, 2023

Australia’s children’s commissioner Anne Hollonds has called for the appointment of a national children’s minister as part of the nation’s recovery from COVID-19, following the lead of neighbouring New Zealand, who appointed a dedicated children’s minister in 2017, with the sole job of advocating for the rights of children.


Ms Holland’s comments were outlined during an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and have been shared here in the interest of their broader advocacy outcomes in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector.  


The new minister, she explained, would focus on the wellbeing of children to “avoid a repeat of the suffering many endured during the pandemic due to lockdowns and school closures”.


Her perspective was that children were overlooked during the early years of Australia’s pandemic response, a situation she warned must never be repeated in future crises.


“At that top level making all the decisions about COVID-19 nationally, there was no chief paediatrician there,” Commissioner Hollonds told The Sydney Morning Herald. “There was no one there whose job it was to think solely about the needs of children.”


When children were mentioned, she continued, it was largely in the context of the challenges their presence brought to their parents, who had to juggle homeschooling and having children around more often, rather than thinking about their wellbeing. 


“What was completely invisible were the children living in families with poverty and disadvantage, the kids with disabilities,” Commissioner Hollonds said. “These were the children who suffered the most, but we never heard about those kids.”


Young people and children in Australia have sought support at record levels for mental health issues including anxiety, self-harm and depression since COVID-19 began, while eating disorders are also rising, along with school refusal rates. 


“There is a concern about potentially a lost generation of children, who at a very critical stage of their development didn’t get the support they needed because we didn’t have in place the scaffolding that was required,” Commissioner Hollonds said. “They were shut out of the services that could have helped them.”


“Had there been a national child wellbeing framework that was overarching all the disparate, siloed strategies across the different government portfolios, it could have been our guiding star on child wellbeing,” the Commissioner said. “The answers would have been in there.”


“We need to start to reinforce this idea that children are not just an appendage of their parents,” she continued. “Children have needs unique and different to ours and they need a special focus.”


To read the original coverage of this story, please see here

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