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Violations of trust


Brigid Veale
15 March 2006
Giving children and young people a greater voice in society will help stem the abuse and neglect experienced by many of them in institutions, according to Southern Cross University senior lecturer Dr Richard Hil.

Dr Hil is the co-editor of the book 'Violations of Trust – How social and welfare institutions fail children and young people', which highlights the problems experienced by children in countries including Australia, England, North America and Canada.

The book examines a range of topics related to children's welfare, including Australia's treatment of child-asylum seekers and the use of medication to treat ADHD.

Dr Hil said the book was prompted by an awareness and concern that there was such systematic abuse and neglect of children and young people in institutions.

"There has been a significant failure to fully address the problems that beset our education and child welfare institutions. It is clear that the abuse and neglect experienced by many children and young people is fairly routine – it's not an oddity or an historical exception," he said.

"We have looked at a whole range of areas where that abuse and neglect occurs, including the policies that led to the Stolen Generation.

"Central to kids being held in institutions is the whole notion of trust and if that is undermined – as it often is – then all sorts of things happen. Unfortunately we still haven't adequately dealt with this matter, and we probably won't until the questions of citizenship and allied rights are reviewed."

Dr Hil said while most of the organisations charged with caring for children and young people were managed by people who were well intentioned, there needed to be a fundamental shift in how children were positioned in society to prevent 'violations of trust'.

"The traditional response to these problems has been to establish an inquiry, but that hasn't always worked. We need to be looking at the wider question of how young people are controlled, regulated and treated in society. There is an absence of deep respect for young people," he said.

"There needs to be a practical commitment to the basic human rights of young people, as well as adequate funding and education of those responsible for the care and protection of the young."

Co-editors of the book are Professor Judith Bessant and Professor Rob Watts, from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University. Contributors include: Uschi Bay, from Southern Cross University; Susanne Davies, La Trobe University; Dr Bob Jacobs, a US attorney and psychologist; Dr Peter Kelly, Deakin University; Robert van Krieken, University of Sydney; Sharon Lacey, criminal law barrister; Moira Rayner, Special Counsel and deputy managing director of the Council for Equal Opportunity in Employment Ltd; Chris Sidoti, a human rights lawyer, activist and teacher; and Associate Professor Ruth Weber, Australian Catholic University.

The book is published by Ashgate Publishing Limited, England.