Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A person is a person through other persons...

Recently, I attended the APCCAN (Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect) 2009 conference in Perth (15-19 November 2009) as part of the Youth Participant Program and was kindly sponsored by NAPCAN (National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) and my local council, Hobsons Bay City Council. My goal - to learn about the challenges and issues facing our community in preventing child abuse and neglect, particularly how, as a young individual/group – we can help work towards putting an end to child abuse and neglect and advance the wellbeing of children, young people and their families.



Here are my notes on my experiences and the key points and facts that I would like to share with you all. There is discussions within Facebook where one can also discuss this topic with other young individuals so please feel free to let me know if you're interested in participating it that (mailforvu(at)gmail.com)

'Face to Face': APCCAN 09 Young Participants' Program from Youth Affairs Council of WA on Vimeo.


Noticing, caring and preventing child abuse and neglect
The ‘socially isolated’ are at the highest risk of child abuse and neglect and the problem goes up the lower the SES (social economic status). There is a strong correlation with the level of neighbourhood quality with actual maltreatment rates, and as such, creating a more active engagement within the community, enhancing sense of collective efficacy, and having the neighbourhood care for families will generally see a reduction in the amount of child abuse and neglect within a community.
It was pointed out that ‘informal services are more effective than formal services’ as one shouldn’t be a patient or a client in order to receive assistance from other members of the community. Moreover, it is important to have someone who will notice and someone who will care regardless of whether one is enlisted with the formal services or not. Often, people within these affected communities may find it difficult to trust authorities, and so, these informal networks are very crucial in ensuring that they have someone to go to.
It was also noted that one of the best way to reduce crime was to increase social interactions, which makes sense as keeping people busy and giving them a sense of a community will create feelings of wellbeing and belonging. Much the same feelings we humans have had in the tribal days.

A nice quote mentioned by keynote speaker, Gary B. Melton, points out how people find themselves within a community, i.e. ‘a person is person through other persons’ - Desmond Tutu.

Children in their own right and the need to identify child abuse/ neglect instances
Seeing ‘children in their own right’ and understanding the need to identify instances of child abuse and neglect were other key points mentioned at the conference. Since we need to listen to children particularly when they report something is wrong, or else we may find that difficult and challenging situations may arise as what our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had acknowledged and apologised recently (on 16th November 2009 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8r_IyKQKrA)). Mr Rudd's speech was presented at the opening of the APCCAN conference and was the best example of what the work of not only the representatives and delegates present at the conference were working to prevent and reduce, but all those around the world in their various communities. Their work is particularly important, especially as people often ‘normalise’ the effects or signs of child abuse and neglect, which they may see as a common way of life. When in fact it isn’t so, and that a professional may be able to identify certain situations which didn’t appear apparent to the individual and/or group/community.

Long-term effects
Surprisingly, it was mentioned that long-term effects of people who have experienced an adverse childhood experience have been noted to live 20 years less than the general population, and that it was hinted that childhood abuse may reduce the ability of certain genes to be expressed. Everyday experiences can often also trigger the recall of childhood abuse experiences for affected individuals with one example mentioning that a participant of a training program (I won’t mention what type to ensure that I can preserve their identity) found the experience too tough and withdrawing from the program due to recalling these childhood abuse experiences.

A kind and sincere speech
At the conference dinner, Therese Rein, NAPCAN's National Children's Champion, presented one of the best speeches I have ever heard. It was most heart-warming, honest and caring and touched many (if not all) individuals present at the dinner. I was sitting next to Julie McCrossin and she noted it as one of the best speeches she had ever heard - and she would have heard many great speeches!!! I feel quite priviledged to have been there to listen to it and am glad that Therese Rein is the NAPCAN champion. It's great to see her using her role alongside Mr Rudd for such a great purpose and role :D (BTW, if I can find someone a copy of that speech I'll be sure post it for you all!!!)

Young people - they do want to listen to you!
There were various Child Commissioners and Guardians present at the conference and one of the consistent messages I have received from them is that they do want to listen to you all. They would like to engage with you better, it's just more so that they have found it a bit challenging to find the best ways to engage you. Especially given that they don't fully understand the potential and the capabilities within the online social mediums such as Facebook and Twitter. As mentioned earlier, the youth participants of the conference have an online facebook group where we do discuss and share discussions on the child abuse and neglect issues and it would be great to see those who want to be involved become involved. As it is important in ensuring that we can help them to get things done better and right.

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