ADJOURNMENT;Forget-me-knot Day – 23 Nov 2010

Tonight I rise to speak on the important organisation Adults Surviving Child Abuse, or ASCA. I know, Madam Acting Deputy President Kroger, that you share this interest with me, so I am sure you will find tonight’s speech interesting.

ASCA is a national organisation—one of many—which works to improve the lives of the many adults who suffered abuse during childhood. This is a really insidious event that takes place way too often. In the local media of my home state Tasmania today, there was another case of child abuse—of teenagers—in the courts. It just makes you feel sick every time you read it and hear about it.

The organisation lobbies governments and policy makers as well as educating and informing communities and healthcare professionals about the needs of those affected by childhood trauma. ASCA’s long-term strategy is to ensure that all Australian adult survivors of all forms of child abuse and neglect will be able to access the specific services they need to ensure health, wellbeing and meaningful engagement in their communities.

In November 2009, ASCA held its inaugural Forget-me-knot Day in support of the more than two million Australian adults surviving child abuse. The ASCA website states:

When children are abused they become confused; life, even in adulthood, can be chaotic and tangled. ASCA wants all Australians to work together to untangle the knot of child abuse and to support survivors as they break free from the shame and the stigma.

This year’s Forget-me-knot Day was held on 12 November.

In recent years ASCA has developed and delivered an extensive workshop program nationally. ASCA’s ‘Creating new possibilities’ workshops for survivors make a real difference to the lives of those who attend. ASCA is currently seeking ongoing funding so its crucial programs can reach more survivors in need.

The organisation also delivers education and training workshops for healthcare professionals and community workers. And ASCA has a 1300 line to provide support to survivors of abuse as well as to the people who provide support to those who have been abused. It is resourced Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm by experienced trauma therapists. As well as its hotline, ASCA also has an ever-expanding referral database of healthcare professionals and agencies who have registered to offer services for trauma survivors. Breaking free is ASCA’s monthly newsletter for survivors, friends and supporters, and there is also a quarterly internet publication, e-health for health care professionals, to provide important information and support to survivors of abuse and their support networks. To give you an idea of the cost of ASCA services: $25 is enough for 50 Breaking free newsletters; $50 is enough for one hour of care and support on the 1300 line; $100 is the equivalent of two hours of trauma phone counselling; and $500 allows two people to attend ‘Creating new possibilities’ workshops.

The ASCA website includes some horrific stories of abuse. I will not go into details about these but I can tell you that they are not for the faint-hearted. However, despite these appalling stories, some good has come from them. For example, one survivor is completing a Master of Social Science in Counselling and has studied some psychology. She works in the area of mental health and says that she  will not rest until she can see that countless others can benefit from her lived experience and her knowledge.

Another example is that of Anthony and Christine Foster, who talk about the devastation of losing their daughter Emma to an illness that resulted from trauma associated with abuse. They also have a second daughter, who is physically and intellectually disabled as a result of being involved in an accident—she was drunk and using alcohol to escape her emotions when she was hit by a car. The couple, along with their third daughter, Aimee, share their experience in the hope that others will learn from it and that it may prevent people suffering the way their family has. ASCA has set up the Emma Foster Memorial Fund to help sufferers of abuse.

I would now like to mention what the Gillard government is doing about child protection. The Gillard Labor government recognises that protecting children demands national leadership and a coordinated national response. In 2009, federal Labor delivered the first ever national child protection framework and committed more than $60 million in new investment. The national framework is an ambitious long-term agenda for reform and includes over 70 actions, among them new national standards to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of children living in out-of-home care regardless of where they live; improved information-sharing between Commonwealth agencies, like Centrelink and Medicare, and state child protection authorities; and more family support and parenting services right across the country to help struggling families before problems escalate.

The national framework represents an unprecedented level of collaboration between federal, state and territory governments and non-government organisations to protect children. Reducing child abuse and neglect is not an easy task, and it will take time. The national framework provides the foundation for national reform. Under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, statutory responsibility for child protection and foster care services and related allowances remains with the states and territories.

The national framework delivers on federal Labor’s 2007 election commitment to look after the most vulnerable in our society—that is, our children. The Gillard government is committed to doing what we can to protect our children both now and in the future. I am sad to say that the former coalition government had no national child protection policy and washed their hands of this critical issue. Organisations such as ASCA must be congratulated for their hard work and dedication to helping people overcome the trauma of abuse. They should be supported in their efforts and I urge everyone to contribute in any way that they can.

In conclusion, I remind all parliamentarians and the people of the ACT and surrounding areas of the art display—an extract from the Cunningham Dax collection—in the public viewing area of Parliament House. The approximately 40 pieces upstairs for people to view are part of a huge collection of around 15,000 pieces. When you look at the display and read the descriptions with the artwork, it is quite a moving experience. It helps us to realise what people feel who have been abused and helps those people deal with issues that they so often find difficult to talk about. I encourage anyone who is listening tonight in the vicinity of Parliament House in Canberra to make the trip to have a look at the display.