Universal Children's Day and Family Violence Reform
Today, the 20th of November is the Universal Children's Day. This day offers us an opportunity to reflect on the right for children to grow up in a world free from violence.
For this to be a reality, enormous changes across almost all aspects of our society is required, which will rely on the collaboration of many: government services, correction services, legislative and judicial systems, and between the service sectors that traditionally operated in more siloed ways.
We have seen some changes begin as a result of investigations, inquiries, research and royal commissions into circumstances related to children, families and family violence, and although it is never their responsibility, it is the courage of victim survivors who have spoken about their experiences that has often set that change in motion.
Last week, the Victorian parliament passed a Greens motion to start the process to expunge criminal convictions given to children in state care; until 1991, children placed in state care were charged with being in need of protection, which then appeared on police criminal history records, compounding the suffering those children experienced even further.
Many of these children would have been fleeing their home due to family violence. Protection charges of children that are conflated with criminal charges should be expunged and the systems in place to protect children who cannot find safety at home should be accountable to the care they provide. For us, this also underlines the need for women to have the financial independence and support to provide safety and protection for their children when experiencing family violence.
Women experiencing violent or abusive relationships face high financial barriers to escape. This makes leaving impossible for many, and is the motivation behind the campaign calling on the federal government and the Fair Work Commission to implement ten days of paid family and domestic violence leave for Australian workers to support victim survivors of family violence.
Like so many of the changes that have been advocated in this area, paid family violence leave would be just a first step in the ongoing change that is required to address this national emergency.
To ensure a world free from violence for every child, it is critical that the various legal, child and family welfare, educational and family violence organisations working with children and parents experiencing family violence fulfil their roles within a coordinated effort and that our common goals of keeping women and children safe guide our collaboration.