Welcome to Children’s Week 2020. We are looking forward to an exciting week of happy activities celebrating our children and young people and their achievements and aspirations. Our thanks and admiration go out to the many organisations and individuals who have worked creatively to ensure these celebrations can go ahead despite the COVID restrictions which have brought so many changes to our world.
However, this is also a time for serious reflection about the very real issues our children and young people are facing and the best ways to help them meet those challenges. This year’s theme for Children’s Week: Children have the right to choose their own friends and safely connect with others is both poignant and very relevant as we strive to keep our children and, especially, our young people safe, healthy and optimistic about the future. The theme is taken from Article 15 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that states that ‘Children have the right to meet together and join groups and organisations as long as it does not stop other people from enjoying their rights. In exercising their rights, children have the responsibility to respect the rights, freedom and reputations of others.’
In a year when our children may not be able to meet and interact with their friends, when their relationships with their teachers, coaches, mentors may be less frequent and over the internet rather than in person, the cyber world is increasingly important for enabling that vital ‘connection’. However, the new technology has also seen an upsurge of bullying amongst young people, many of whom no longer feel safe even in their own homes. So the second part of the theme which emphasises the reciprocal rights of other young people is particularly important.
Children’s Week is a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the many amazing people, from all ages and walks of life, working to ‘make a difference’ for our children and young people. The Committee offers small grants to organisations to help run activities during the week, to increase awareness of the needs, interest, rights and achievements of children and young people and to promote community involvement and cooperation.
The Committee also presents awards which give public recognition to individuals or groups for outstanding contributions to the needs, welfare and interests of children and to young people who are outstanding role models for their peers. Although the awards are non-competitive, a representative group is chosen to receive their awards at our Launch and Awards Ceremony, held on Universal Children’s Day. This inspiring (and humbling) Ceremony is a highlight of Children’s Week every year and, although this year will involve social distancing, reduced audience numbers and video rather than live performances, we are confident it will be just as special.
The ACT Children’s Week Committee is fortunate to have the support of the ACT Government (through the Education and Community Services Directorates) and the Catholic Education Office. We are members of the Children’s Week Council of Australia which receives support from the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment. We acknowledge and appreciate this support.
We are particularly excited to announce that the Children’s Week Council of Australia will host a national conversation with incoming National Children’s Commissioner, Anne Hollonds, on Wednesday 28 October 2020. This is Anne’s first opportunity to introduce herself in her new role, and share her vision and aspirations for Australia’s children. As part of the conversation, CWCoA Secretary Julie Hourigan Ruse will explore with Anne how children’s right to connect safely with others has been impacted by drought, bushfire, flood and pandemic across the nation this year.
Last but by no means least, I want to warmly thank the small dedicated team of volunteers who do the day to day work of the ACT Children’s Week Committee. Their energy, enthusiasm and efficiency (especially as most of our meetings have happened via Zoom this year) is inspirational and much appreciated.
Let us all enjoy celebrating Children’s Week but also take time to reflect on how we can support all children and young people to grow and prosper.