National Child Protection Week runs in Australia from 2 September to 8 September and encourages us to promote safety for children in our communities. The sad reality I have come to realise is that many young people who are abused believe that this behaviour is normal. Adults in our community are letting our young people down.
Reports of child abuse are overwhelming and give witness to the lack of accountability for adults who abuse young people. Courts are far too lenient on people who abuse our children; communities are looking the other way, ignoring the abuse of children because this is the easiest option. People don’t want to get involved in notifying assaults on our young people because of the fear of the consequences from the perpetrators. We have lost the ability for adults to serve as collective parents for all the young people in our neighbourhood.
Nothing is more important than protecting our vulnerable children from abuse and neglect. Child abuse goes beyond the tears and pain experienced in childhood. Victims endure a lifetime of psychological and emotional distress, they often become drug users to kill the pain of abuse, attempt suicide, self-mutilate and have major trust issues. We, as a society, must ensure that we provide our children with a safe and supportive environment, so that they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
At Youth Off The Streets we provide an abundance of services to young people from all walks of life across three Australian states. Above all else in our work, we hold the protection of young people paramount in our activities and programs.
I support National Child Protection week and the movement to protect some of Australia’s most vulnerable young people, but I would like to see this action become an everyday part of Australian lives.
-Father Chris Riley