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Building a community where every child is somebody


Zoe Satherley
4 November 2009
How to create safe and respectful communities where children and young people are known, included and watched out for, is the focus of a conference being hosted by Southern Cross University’s Centre for Children and Young People (CCYP) next week.

Keynote speakers for the day are Professors Gary Melton and Robin Kimbrough-Melton, from the Institute on Family & Neighborhood Life, Clemson University, South Carolina, USA. The couple is well known internationally for their innovative work around promoting the safety and well-being of children and young people.

Also a keynote speaker is Associate Professor Geoff Woolcock from Griffith University, a national expert on creating child-friendly communities.

They will be joined by an expert panel to explore examples of ‘good practice’ initiatives, nationally and internationally.

The expert panel includes Lismore Mayor, Jenny Dowell, Bundjalung Elder Aunty Irene Harrington, and a number of community professionals, including Jennifer Parkes (Department of Juvenile Justice), Dyonne Anderson (principal, Cabbage Tree Island), Lizette Twisleton (Lismore Council), Jackie Andrews (community pediatrician), Rebecca Battista (business leader), Lisa Gava (DOCS) and Lyn Hugenson (DET). Members of CCYP’s youth consultative group, Young People Big Voice, will also participate on the panel.

Professor Anne Graham, Centre for Children and Young People director, said the conference was particularly significant because it coincided with the 20th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“As a community, we need to take a close look at the extent to which we cherish children and are prepared to work together to foster environments where they feel known, respected and cared for,” Professor Graham said.

“The importance of the safety and well-being of children and young people is now firmly reflected in a wide range of state, national and international policy initiatives.

“However, improving children’s lives and experiences requires that all those working with and for them - in schools, child care centres, child and family welfare services, health, local councils, businesses, sporting groups, churches and so on have a shared understanding of the value and importance of children and young people within the community, what they need and how best to engage with them. Only then will it become easier for everyone to notice and care for them and for their parents.

“This one-day conference will explore ways in which current policy rhetoric around ‘stronger communities’ and improving children’s lives can be turned into action. The day will focus on ways to imagine and develop safe, humane and responsive communities as places where children and young people are treated like ‘people’, where they and their parents are known, respected, watched for, and actively engaged within the community.

“Examples of good practice initiatives, nationally and internationally, will be shared with a particular emphasis on how these recognise children and young people, and improve their participation and protection.”

The conference is titled ‘Where Every Child is Somebody: Communities of Respect for Children, Young People and their Families’. It will be held on Thursday, November 12, at Invercauld House Conference and Function Centre, 161 Invercauld Rd, Goonellabah. For more information, or to register, contact Wendy Britt at the Centre for Children and Young People on 6620 3605 or visit the Centre’s website at

Photo: Professor Anne Graham, director of the Centre for Children and Young People.