Australian Catholic University child protection expert Professor Daryl Higgins has issued a call to action for more support to help families safeguard their children.
Speaking in the lead-up to the fifth anniversary of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the director of the ACU Institute of Child Protection Studies said a similar focus on children’s safety in non-institutional settings was urgently needed.
“Governments need to prioritise the role of parents and caregivers in the safety and safeguarding of their children,” Professor Higgins said.
“The Royal Commission shone a spotlight on serious problems and risks to children in institutional settings and resulted in a raft of measures to safeguard children in youth-serving organisations.
“But research has shown time and time again that the same problems and risks exist in non-institutional settings. We now need a similar nationwide focus on safeguarding within families.”
Professor Higgins said all families needed: Clear guidance about good parenting practices and access to evidence-based parenting supports; Dedicated services to help build their capability and skills to create safe environments; Strategies to address children’s behavioural issues without smacking or using other forms of violence; Education to be able to identify signs and reduce the risk of grooming; Background knowledge and facts to help them have informed discussions with their children about sex and sexuality, respect and relationships, consent and coercion, and boundaries.
“As a society, we need to support families to be primary protective agents in the lives of their children, and not just rely on youth-serving organisations,” Professor Higgins said.
“We need to build the literacy of families to have these crucial conversations. It is highly unlikely that a child will speak up about feeling uncomfortable or seek help if they are at risk if we don’t build that foundation first.”