Why Aren’t We Listening To The Kids?

CHILDREN of the troubled Kimberley town of Halls Creek have unanimously nominated an alcohol ban as their No1 wish, ahead of a local cinema and an international airport.

More than 100 children aged 10 to 14 at the school in Halls Creek told youth facilitator Michael O’Meara that, more than anything else, they wanted alcohol eliminated from their town and wanted help for their parents and other adults in Halls Creek to get sober.

“The young people were very clear about what they wanted … they weren’t prompted or given suggestions,” said Mr O’Meara, facilitator of last year’s 2020 Youth Summit.

“They spoke of their fears that some in the community would not like them asking for the elimination of alcohol, and they spoke of the impact of alcohol on their lives – I can say they have very real reasons for wanting it to stop.” continued at The Australian newspaper Jan 12th 2009

A few days ago I quoted from the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey:

Just over one in five children (22%) were living in families where 7 or more major life stress events had occurred over the preceding 12 months. These children were five and a half times more likely to be at high risk of clinically significant emotional or behavioural difficulties than children in families where 2 or less life stress events had occurred

Perhaps we should be acting on what the children want us to.

Instead, as well as the above reports, other states also continue to produce reports rather than acting and introducing sustainable and ongoing programs (one off projects seem to constitute long term planning and solutions).

Queensland has recently released the report Children and young people in Queensland: a Snapshot 2008.
Here a few of the “highlights”:

the infant mortality rate (11.8 per 1000) is twice the state average – reducing the number of pre-term Indigenous births would significantly reduce the high Indigenous infant mortality rate.

31.6% of youth suicides under 18 years were Indigenous children in 2006–07.

6.0% of all 0 to 17 year olds in Queensland were Indigenous, although Indigenous people make up only
3.3% of the population

the Indigenous youth detention rate almost 15 times the non-Indigenous rate

In the Northern Territory we had the report Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle “Little Children are Sacred” (large PDF) that was misused by the then government to initiate ““The Intervention”“(Northern Territory Emergency Response). This seems to have led to a doubling of infrastructure, finding out what we already new but no sustainable programs in healthcare, or to increase resources to further deal with the health issues we already knew about and where the “very foundational principles on which Aboriginal existence are built — community, culture and collective rights — have been shaken, demonised and exposed to a level of scrutiny unparalleled in recent times.”

A review of the Northern Territory Emergency Response can be found here. Various articles in the Medical Journal of Australia about the response have stated:

paints a demeaning and misleading picture of NT communities as exhibiting “a complete breakdown of normal mores”. This fits snugly with the “white blindfold” view, described by Tait, that will only further disempower marginalised Aboriginal people and communities”

another states:

Existing systems are not providing for adequate follow-up of identified medical and social problems for children living in remote Aboriginal communities”

and another

Indigenous communities must have a role in data collection and anagement“.

It just goes on and on.

There is no one better than Fiona Stanley to conclude with. In a recent speech (video here)

The frustrating and anguishing thing is that we have known what we need to do for 20 years; the evidence has been around in Royal Commissions, HREOC reports, a myriad of government reports as well as our research papers. How to implement is the major issue. Other countries with Indigenous colonised populations have similar problems but are doing much better than Australia – what can we learn from them?

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Robbo is a pharmacist working with a very remote Aboriginal Health Service in the deserts of Western Australia. + Andrew Robbo Roberts

5 thoughts on “Why Aren’t We Listening To The Kids?”

  1. I found the article at The Australian particularly depressing. Especially:

    “But — and I stress that this is my personal opinion — I believe that the kids don’t understand the implications of it.

    “They just see, ‘Go and take the grog away, then we will have mum and dad back’. But mum and dad are going to follow the grog if they’re drinking and probably leave them behind anyway.”

    Sometimes these issues are complicated, but sometimes they are not. For example cutting off the grog should be accompanied by appropriate rehab facilities and counselling etc. Seems to me that the “implications” this particular pub owner and his mates on the council are worried about is keeping the grog and profits flowing rather than any kids losing their parents.

  2. The implications provided by the business people is always a downturn in business by placing restrictions.

    Unfortunately the views quoted above don’t lead me to believe that any rehabilitation would be suggested anyway and would be howled down if suggested.

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