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How parents and grandparents can play a role in children and young people’s literacy

ABC Radio National – Life Matters
Broadcast 20 June 2024

According to recent figures from the Grattan Institute, about one-third of Australian children are struggling to read. This alarming statistic will be of concern to parents, grandparents and guardians alike.

In this episode of ABC Radio National’s Life Matters, presenter Hilary Harper speaks with director of Grandparents Australia Anne McLeish and education deputy program director from the Grattan Institute Amy Haywood on how we can best support children in their reading progress. They discuss the best evidence-based methods for teaching children to read.

Listen to the full program here

GPV/KCV calls for discussion on use of smartphones by children

GPV/KCV welcomes the discussions now happening around the world about the use of smartphones by children and young people and encourages all families to think about the issue.
An article from a mother in the UK about smartphones and children outlines some of the arguments in favour of being cautious about the use of these devices. It comes at a time when the UK is looking at ways to restrict the use of smartphones by children.

I’m a teacher – and this is why I’m not giving my son a smartphone yet

By Lola Okolosie, English teacher and writer focusing on race, politics, education and feminism.
Originally published in The Guardian on 2 June 2023
The adverse effects on children’s mental health are well known, and pre-teens are too young to safely navigate the Internet
“But everyone has one,” pleads my son as his father and I tell him, for the umpteenth time, that no, he will not get a smartphone. Not now and probably not for a few more years.
Despite our firm resolve, it is hard not to feel sorry for him. As the end of year 6 draws closer, the weeks are peppered with stories of new classmates whose parents have, as one friend texted recently, “cracked”.
WhatsApp groups are springing up so that friends going to different secondaries can easily keep in touch. It is a world of interaction he will remain ignorant of, but, much though it pains me to see the turmoil it causes, I feel vindicated each time I read about the detrimental impact that smartphones are having on children.
One report published earlier this year from the children’s commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, revealed that nearly a third of young people will have viewed pornography by the age of 11.
Such content, De Souza clarifies, will not be the equivalent of “top-shelf” material some parents may have viewed in their youth and which today would be considered quaint. It is material in which “depictions of degradation, sexual coercion, aggression and exploitation are commonplace, and disproportionately targeted against teenage girls”.
Or there is the research conducted last year by Ofcom showing that bullying is more likely to happen on a device rather than face to face.
School bullies are not new, but their ability to reach into the sanctuary of the home is a recent development. The problems that arise from pupils’ interactions on social media are taking up large portions of teachers’ time. In February, headteacher Jon Boyes of Herne Bay high school told parents that they would have to sort out arguments between pupils that have taken place online. It was “impossible for the school to police” and the principal cause of “disagreements, stress, anxiety and trauma” among pupils, he wrote. The head urged parents to try to limit screen time, and reminded them that “most social media platforms have a minimum age of 13 years old … meaning most students in years 7 and 8 should not even be using social media”.
Although buying your child a smartphone may seem like the best way to keep them safe, or to ensure they don’t end up feeling socially isolated, evidence suggests that the technology is having dangerous effects on children’s mental health. The most recent survey published by the OECD’s programme for international student assessment (Pisa), of 15- and 16-year-olds in 37 countries around the world, showed that in all but one of those countries, nearly twice as many adolescents had “elevated levels of loneliness” with “school loneliness” proving high when smartphone access and internet use were also high. These findings were echoed in a recent global study of nearly 30,000 young adults, which found a link between the age a child received their first smartphone and their mental health in young adulthood.
Children who were given a phone later went on to experience better mental wellbeing in relation to their self-confidence and their ability to relate to others, researchers found. Conversely, those who received a phone at a younger age were more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, feelings of aggression towards others and the sense that they were detached from reality. These trends proved stronger in females than males but were consistent across all 41 countries surveyed in the report.
Children with smartphones spend, on average, more than three hours a day online, away from family time and in-person interactions. Social media compels them to “compare and despair”, and puts them in touch with toxic influencers such as Andrew Tate.
You might be inclined to dismiss all this as a pointless exercise in closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Yet given what we know, I don’t think defeat is an option.
Parents should be willing to entertain the notion that it’s possible to reject following the herd, at least until their children are old enough to navigate what they find on the internet. In fact, both TikTok and Snapchat require users to be 13 years old. There is power in pushing back against the idea that a smartphone is the only way to keep a child safe, or of ensuring they have access to important friendships. We can, like the 45,000 Texans who are part of the Wait Until 8th movement, which empowers parents to delay giving a smartphone to their children until 8th grade (year 9), hold the line until they become teenagers.
My son is only 10. He’s nowhere near ready to wade through the confusing and harmful detritus that he will no doubt find on the Internet. He hasn’t developed the emotional maturity to deftly avoid the litter along his route. As his parent, why would I assume he could navigate terrain many adults struggle to get a handle on? Since I can’t, I’ll make do with betting that he can survive with a good old-fashioned “dumbphone”, at least until he’s older.

GPV/KCV calls again for the abolition of corporal punishment

GPV/KCV is now a signatory to the following statement drafted by the Parenting and Family Research Alliance

Physical punishment is harmful to Australian children

In 2006, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (‘the Committee’) issued General Comment No. 8 on the right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment. The Committee defined ‘corporal’ or ‘physical’ punishment as:
Any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light. This includes hitting (smacking, spanking, slapping, kicking, scratching, pinching, shaking, or throwing the child, pulling hair, boxing ears, and biting) with the hand or with a stick, belt, shoe, wooden spoon, or whip. The view was that corporal punishment is intrinsically degrading and, therefore, incompatible with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (‘the Convention’). Moreover, other non- physical behaviour that belittles, threatens, scares, ridicules, denigrates, or humiliates the child has also been found to be incompatible with the Convention.
This Joint Statement uses this definition of physical punishment.
Currently, 66 countries/states have eliminated/legislated against the use of physical punishment of children and a further 27 countries/states have committed to doing so. The United Nations General Assembly has targeted eliminating all forms of violence against children, including physical punishment, in its Sustainable Development Goals (‘SDGs’) for 2030. SDG Target 16.2 aims to end the abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence against and torture of children.
We, the signatories to this Joint Statement, are supporting the campaign Ending Physical Punishment of Australian Children, auspiced by the Parenting and Family Research Alliance (PAFRA). We declare that in light of the large body of scientific evidence which clearly states that physical punishment is harmful to the physical and mental wellbeing of our children, Australian parents should be encouraged to use alternative forms of discipline that do not involve physical force.
We call on State and Territory authorities to repeal criminal law legislation that permits physical punishment and to insert a clause into relevant civil legislation which states that physical punishment is no longer appropriate.
We acknowledge that parenting is hard. Therefore, we call on those responsible for the wellbeing of children in the medical, nursing, social work, psychological, family law, child welfare and child
protection spheres and other relevant fields to ensure those raising children have access to positive parenting education and support as an alternative to physical punishment.
We aim to eliminate all forms of physical punishment from Australian parenting practices.
See all signatories to this Joint Statement on the PAFRA website. For further information, please contact a member of the Steering Committee:
• Professor Daryl Higgins, E: [email protected]
• Professor Sophie Havighurst, E: [email protected]
• Karen Flanagan AM, E: [email protected]

GPV/KCV calls for support for the petition to have the HECS system fixed

Independent Member for Kooyong, Dr Monique Ryan has sponsored a petition for all citizens to sign in support of all our young people.

Some facts from last year:
Over a million Australians saw their HECS debt grow faster than it was being repaid
The government received more money from HECS debts than it did from its main fossil fuel tax.

The petition calls on Minister Clare to change the way HECS debts are indexed – as was recommended by the Australian Universities Accord, released last month.SIGN THE PETITION VIA THE LINK OR QR CODE BELOW

Fundraisers are for extras, not essentials! Fully funded public schools NOW

Public schools in Victoria are massively under-resourced.
Parents, it’s time to take action!

  1. Sign up to the For Every Child campaign at
  2. Follow/like Parents Victoria and For Every Child on Facebook and Threads, and share our posts with your networks
  3. Contact Federal & State Education Ministers and your local MP (more details on our website)
  4. Call talkback radio (we’ll help you with some talking points)
  5. Get your school and Parent Club involved. Encourage friends, family and colleagues to get active too.

Government funding for public schools – The facts
The Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) is an estimate of how much public funding a school needs to meet its students’ educational needs.
Public schools only receive 86% of the SRS, while private schools receive 103% of the SRS.
Private schools were over-funded by $147 million in 2023 and the cumulative over-funding from 2022 to 2029 is estimated at about $734 million.
Government funding increases have heavily favoured private schools over public schools since 2009.
Public schools are massively under-funded despite enrolling over 80% of disadvantaged students
84% of Indigenous students in Victoria attend public schools. Money matters in education, especially for disadvantaged students.

Properly resourcing public schools is the best way to ensure that:
Children, no matter their background or circumstances, can have their needs met.
Teaching professionals have the resources and tools needed to deliver a high quality education.
This assists to attract and retain teacher workforce.
Schools don’t have to rely on parent volunteers to fundraise.
Schools don’t have to use parent payments to fill the funding gaps.

Millions of Australians set to get boost in welfare payments from Centrelink

Those on the age pension, disability support pension and carer payment will pocket an extra $19.60 for singles and $29.40 for couples combined each fortnight, come 20 March.

The maximum rate of the pension will go up to $1,116.30 for singles and $1,682.80 for couples each fortnight, when including the pension and energy supplements.

People on rent assistance, JobSeeker, single parenting payments and ABSTUDY will also receive an uptick in their payments.

An extra 77,000 parents are on a higher payment rate after eligibility was expanded to cover parents with a youngest child under 14 instead of eight in the last budget.

The single parenting payment will go up by $17.50 a fortnight.
Single JobSeeker recipients with no kids, and people over 22 on ABSTUDY, will get an extra $13.50 per fortnight.

Each member of a couple will get an additional $12.30 per fortnight.

Income and assets limits for the payments will also be increased in line with indexation on 20 March.

Indexation is an important measure to ensure welfare recipients have more money in their pockets, Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said.
“Our number one priority is addressing inflation and cost of living pressures,” she said.

“Pension recipients are some of the most vulnerable members of our communities, many having worked all their lives contributing to our society or caring for a loved one.”

The complete list of payments increasing on 20 March 2024, including income and asset limits, can be found on the  Department of Social Services website

KCV Podcast 29 – Issues with Education for Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care

In this podcast we speak with Victoria’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan, about the Commission’s ‘Let Us Learn’ inquiry report, tabled in the Victorian parliament in November 2023.

The report shows that the education engagement and outcomes for children and young people in out-of-home care trail significantly behind those of their peers.

Liana explains why the Commission conducted the report and outlines its reaction to the findings. She also discusses some of the Commission’s most pressing recommendations resulting from the inquiry.

Let Us Learn report by Vic CCYP on education of children in OOHC

Let Us Learn report

A systematic enquiry into the educational experience of children and young people in out of home care conducted by the Vic. Commissioner for Children and Young People

The latest, and arguably one of the most important, reports released by the Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People was tabled in parliament this morning 16/11/23. It addresses the education of children and young people in care.

The investigation exposes some shameful data and shares some disturbing stories offered by children and young people. Listen to the children’s accounts of their experiences and then, as a Victorian citizen, worry!  Worry about the way we are inequitably educating Victoria’s most precious resource – all of it’s children and young people.

Some recommendations are both critical and urgent: such as:

Recommendation 7: Increase carer payments

That the Victorian Government increase the care allowance payments for kinship and foster carers.

Recommendation 8: Ensure equitable financial support for kinship and foster carers

That DFFH strengthen the care allowance assessment and payment process to ensure assessments are conducted thoroughly and in a timely way, and that equitable financial support is provided to kinship and foster carers.

Recommendation 9: Remove voluntary contributions and other education expenses for carers

That DE ensure that carers of students in out-of-home care are not requested to pay voluntary financial contributions and education-related expenses, including camps and excursions.

Recommendation 10: Provide carers with information and assistance to access flexible education-related funding

That DFFH:

  • ensure all carers and the children and young people in their care, particularly those in kinship care and in residential care settings, are provided with information about flexible funding available to cover education and extra-curricular activities
  • further streamline the process for seeking this funding.

Recommendation 11: Provide all students in out-of-home care with a free Victorian Student Travel Pass

That the Victorian Government provide all student aged children and young people in out-of-home care with a Victorian Student Travel Pass free of charge.

Summary of Yoorrook Justice Commission Report into Victoria’s Child Protection and Criminal Justice Systems

The second report of the Yoorrook Justice Commission focuses on the past and ongoing systemic injustice experienced by First Nations communities within Victoria’s child protection and criminal justice systems.

Structure of the report

The report is divided into seven parts:

Part A includes the Letter of Transmission, Chairperson’s foreword, and a brief introduction to the report’s methodology and terminology.

Part B includes an Executive Summary, list of recommendations and key facts.

Part C examines the historical foundations of the child protection and criminal justice systems. It explains how current injustices, including systemic racism and human and cultural rights violations created by these systems, are not just historical, but continue to persist today with critical impacts on First Peoples families and communities.

It then goes on to discuss matters for Treaty in relation to child protection and criminal justice. In particular, Yoorrook finds that the transformation necessary to end the harms that the child protection and criminal justice systems continue to inflict on First Peoples can only be addressed through self-determination involving the transfer of power, authority and resources to First Peoples via the treaty process.

Part C concludes by examining consistent themes in evidence to Yoorrook that span both the child protection and criminal justice systems, including accountability and transparency, cultural competence and responsivity, and compliance with cultural and human rights obligations. Whole of government recommendations to address these issues are made.

Part D examines critical issues in the child protection system. It begins with a short overview of some of the key policies, laws and human and cultural rights that are engaged by this system. It then examines the pathway into, through and beyond child protection with chapters on early help, child removal, out-of-home care, permanency and reunification. Findings on critical issues and recommendations for urgent action are made in each chapter.

Part E adopts a similar approach to the criminal justice system. Following a brief overview, each of the major parts of that system are considered: Victoria Police; the bail system; youth justice; courts, sentencing and classification of offences; and Victorian Prisons. Key systemic injustices are identified, findings made, and recommendations for urgent action put forward.

Part F considers other issues that have arisen during this stage of Yoorrook’s work, including legislative barriers to Yoorrook properly fulfilling its truth-telling mandate. Yoorrook outlines legal problems which mean that Yoorrook cannot guarantee that confidential information shared by First Peoples and others will be kept confidential once Yoorrook finishes its work. It also discusses barriers to members of the Stolen Generation and others who have been or are currently subject to child protection orders telling their truth. Recommendations to resolve these issues are made.

Part G contains appendices to the report, including a list of witnesses and a glossary. Further information relating to the child protection and criminal justice systems is also provided.

Click here to view/download the full summary of the Yoorrook report here.

Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 – A statement from GPV/KCV

Thursday, 27 April 2023

GPV/KCV welcomes the decision made by the Victorian Cabinet on Monday to lift the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12. As GPV/KCV has campaigned for this issue for some time, we are disappointed with the mystifying decision to wait another few years before lifting the age limit to 14.

However, equally mystifying and disappointing are the views being expressed suggesting that lifting the age of criminal responsibility will mean children are not held accountable. These views come from a narrow band of thinking about the most effective ways to hold children responsible for their actions. As a society we need to do so without creating a lifelong tag for children as criminals that may prevent them from becoming the citizens in adulthood we all would want.

It can only be hoped that in the interim the courts continue to do what they can to make use of the doli incapax provisions in law which describe the inability of children under the minimum age of criminal responsibility to form criminal intent. If a child is aged over 10 years but under 14, there is a common law presumption of doli incapax.

Anne McLeish OAM, Director GPV/KCV

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