Disturbing results from the nationwide Australian Child Maltreatment Study have revealed 1 in 4 Australian children experience sexual abuse, 1 in 3 Australian children experience physical abuse, and 2 in 5 Australian children experience exposure to domestic violence.
Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Government, the study interviewed 8500 Australians aged 16 and over and highlights the need for a nationally coordinated response to child maltreatment and the importance of early intervention to mitigate the devastating effects on mental health and increasing levels of youth self-harm.
CatholicCare Sydney CEO Alastair McGibbon believes breaking the cycle of intergenerational trauma is paramount and is a focus of his Child and Family Safety teams,
“We know the risk factors of alcohol and substance misuse, mental health problems, and financial stress are being repeated in families and cascading down through generations,” he said.
“We have programs in place to tackle each issue, but first and foremost the safety of children must be considered. We firmly advocate for the importance of maintaining strong family units, but not at the risk of damaging long-term impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of a child.”
Programs run and managed by CatholicCare Sydney include the HOPE Program for young families with parents aged between 16 and 24, Intensive Family Preservation to support families with children at risk of entering Out of Home Care, Child Sexual Assault Counselling, and the Men’s Behaviour Change Program -Choosing Change.
“Abuse and violence devastate a woman’s and child’s sense of self and safety and limits their choices and freedom. Their family is no longer a ‘safe haven,’ but a place of oppression, control, and fear,” explains Dr Lauren Kadwell, Director of Practice Excellence and Outcomes, CatholicCare Sydney
“The importance of listening to and believing children’s experiences of control and violence and challenging the attitudes and behaviours that justify, excuse or downplay this violence are vital in breaking the cycles.”
CatholicCare Sydney’s Choosing Change is aimed at men who have been violent or abusive to a loved one and want to stop the abuse and better manage their emotions. It not only offers support and strategies in a safe environment but also safety checks, support and referral for the women and children who have experienced family violence from men engaged with the program.
“The principal priority of Choosing Change is to ensure the safety of the victim survivors. The program aims to give men the opportunity to identify and break their cycle of violence, acquire new skills, and try and restore relationships, if possible,” said Alastair McGibbon
“The concept was met with sector resistance when the need to work with the perpetrators and not just the victims was first proposed, but now working with perpetrators is a highly accepted way to break the cycle of violence through rehabilitation.”
CatholicCare Sydney is committed to working closely with the relevant government departments, and aligned stakeholders, on a coordinated response to ensure prevention and early intervention are the focus for children’s safety and wellbeing following this landmark study.