The children's voice

The Caring for Country Kids Conference included participation by several groups of local children including:   Drum Atweme, Braitling Primary School, Bradshaw Primary School, Sadadeen Primary School, Dusty Feet Dance and ballet dancers from Tennant Creek.

A dedicated workshop was held with the children from Tennant Creek and the leadership group from Bradshaw Primary School that involved the Conference MC, Tim Moore; and National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, working with the children to find out from them what it means to be healthy, what it means to not be healthy and what can be done to improve things.

Outcomes from this session were input into the Conference recommendations process.

Tim Moore's summary of the session

It's good that they're listening


Bradshaw Students jumping

Student session at the Conference
Bradshaw students working on recommendations
Bradshaw students working on recommendations
Bradshaw students working on recommendations
Bradshaw students being filmed for local tv

Isabella Bishop is a year 10 student from Alfred Deakin High School in Canberra. She was on holiday in central Australia with her family and decided to attend the Caring for Country Kids conference with her mum, who was presenting. This is her perspective on the conference.

Attending the conference Caring for Country Kids was an interesting and eye-opening experience. Every speaker offered unique knowledge on different aspects about caring for country kids, however there were a few key points that were repeated by almost every speaker - these points outlined the need for government to stop wasting all their energy by running on the spot and to start seeking progress through stabilising funding for programs, and by listening to the voices of people who are the targets of many of these health programs.

Another prominent theme was not dissimilar, calling for the need for communication between the many separate organisations offering healthcare to country kids, so that healthcare could be organised with less overlap and more efficiency. Many different speakers called for the need to acknowledge the benefits of early intervention and prevention, showing that by stopping problems before they begin will result in more money being saved overall and quality of health improving.

The conference was really worthwhile attending, and the highlights for me were the sessions I attended about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), mental health in children, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. I was really moved by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speakers, who really highlighted how many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel they are subjects of racism, and their anger that many health programs directed towards them are founded on little evidence, and are rarely implemented with any input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The FASD session was really educational and had a lot of interesting statistics. The most startling thing about FASD was that in 1973 we knew the same amount of information about FASD as we do today, and the nation has made no progress in 40 years around the subject. The government refuses to acknowledge it is a problem, and much of Australia has no information around the subject, with 1 in 5 children in the NT having FASD. After listening to all of the astounding facts around this issue, with a few facts about alcohol related violence thrown in, it stupefies me that nothing has been done around this issue, which is clearly so pressing and has an easy fix.

Isabella Bishop


The mental health session I attended was really important to me, because I have seen how bad mental health is at my high school - which is located in a major city - and I realised if it was that bad where I lived, it must be worse in remote and rural communities. Much of what was talked about in this session applied to kids as a whole, not just remote and rural kids. After sitting through many of these speaker’s presentations, I thought that it was rather shocking that there is not many support systems for children, since many mental health support systems are only available to adults despite a study showing that 75% of all mental health disorders actually emerge before the age of 25.

Overall, the experience was very enlightening and I learnt a lot. The one thing that I would have changed about the conference, was that I would have tried to get more kids around my age who are interested to attend it, because we are going to be the next generation of people who lead in healthcare positions. Altogether, I am convinced about the importance of intervening from prebirth to the first five years, because the conference showed if we get it right the first time, we get it right forever.

News article click to enlarge

Agencies told to heed Children show insight wisdom of communities into complex problems  Dina Indrasafitri  CALLS to listen to and respect local communi-ties were heard during the Caring for Country Kids Conference at the Alice Springs Conven-tion Centre. The conference, which was held from Sun-day to Tuesday, was attended by health practi-tioners, experts, social workers and others interested in the wellbeing of children living in rural and remote communities. Many speakers and participants mentioned the importance of building good relationships with local communities. Geri Malone from the National Rural Health Alliance said it was important to recognise the capacity, knowledge and wisdom of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. "We need to listen and we need to change the language and we do have to name racism when we see it," she said Children's Healthcare Australasia president Trish Davidson concurred. "One thing we have heard is that driving it out from the city is always going to fail," she said. "It has to be trusting and building and lis-tening with respect to the wisdom of local communities." Ms Malone said people often think that they know the best for others, and forget to talk to  Donna Ah Chee. CEO of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. speaking at the Caring For Country Kids Conference.  people in communities. People also often forget to talk to children, she added, even when they are working for the wellbeing of those children. "People don't think that kids know what they need or what they want we completely under-estimate their ability to know what's going on," Ms Malone said Co-ordination between agencies was another issue. "There's a lot of people going in and pro-viding services independently; its not co-ordi-nated at a local level," she said -Thereshould be integrated, co-ordinated approach for all the services that go into communities."  Dina Indrasafitri  SPEAKERS and organisers of the Caring for Country Kids Conference reminded partici-pants time and again of the "sharing shed"-an online por-tal enabling delegates to pro-pose recommendations and comment on others. A team then scrutinised rec-ommendations from papers and the portal, and a set of priority recommendations for actions were presented. Among the ideas were developing a youth hub in remote centres and lobbying for a sugar tax. Grown-ups, however, were not the only one voicing their thoughts at the conference. Geri Malone from the Na-tional Rural Health Alliance said people often don't listen to children, even when it comes to children-related matters. "Sometimes we just think we can make the decision for them of what they need, rather  Sometimes we just think we can make the decision for them  than induding them in it," she said While it was far from listen-ing to the needs of every child in remote Australia, the con-ference asked dozens of child-ren to share their thoughts about health, healthy com-munity and how to improve less-than-healthy conditions. Tim Moore, a senior re-search fellow from the Insti-tute of Child Protection Studies, said there was a big emphasis on safety. In a healthy community, kids don't have to worry about sex, violence, drugs, alcohol, things that make you feel scared," Mr Moore quoted one opinion.  The children mentioned the need for fresh water and healthy food to make a healthy community. in an unhealthy commun-ity there's lots of violence and people hurt each other," he continued, "No one looks after one an-other - kids don't have any friends." Mr Moore said the children wanted safe schools for "kids who don't have anywhere else to be safe". One young person sugges-ted donations to provide places to stay for homeless children. "Have good preschools and transport so that little kids can get there, especially when their parents don't have a car," goes another. According to Ms Malone, these inputs showed how observant the children were "That showed a lot of in-sight didn't it?" she said "They know what's going on."

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