Rocky’s kids are in crisis.
Rocky’s kids are in crisis.

The ‘burning deck’ exposing CQ’s child vulnerability crisis

THERE was a sharp intake of breath, and the odd suppressed gasp, when the burning deck of this region's child vulnerability crisis was revealed.

The moment came during a presentation by Mick Shearer, the regional executive director of the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, at a Rockhampton gathering of about 100 people representing the stakeholders in the Every Child CQ program.

Mr Shearer's PowerPoint presentation displayed the Rockhampton region's frightening escalation in the percentage of vulnerable and disadvantaged children in just six years.

The Early Development Census table, based on teachers' measurements on Year 1 students every three years, (2012, 2015, 2018) across a number of categories, revealed Rockhampton's percentage of at-risk children had exploded from 18.8 per cent in 2012 to 32.4 per cent in 2018.

"If you're looking for a burning deck, there's one for starters," Mr Shearer said as he spoke about the challenges ahead for the stakeholders and pointed out the immediate areas of major concern.

"The trajectory for vulnerability for kids in that period is spiralling. In fact it's getting much worse."

The census measures vulnerability in categories of physical, emotional, school readiness, safety and language.

The ‘burning deck’ exposing CQ’s child vulnerability crisis.
The ‘burning deck’ exposing CQ’s child vulnerability crisis.

The Rockhampton numbers are much higher than state and national averages.

Rockhampton is now in line with the three worst areas for disadvantaged children in the state, which includes Logan.

"From 2012 to 2018 (each of those three) communities have increased vulnerability by one or two points. Rocky has increased 110 points," Mr Shearer said.

"So in comparison there are lots of things here we should be very, very worried about that amount to the vulnerability of our kids' early childhood issues."

Mr Shearer told the group the role of Every Child CQ was to be a "backbone organisation", to seek commitment from our community, to "come together and collaborate to improve the health and wellbeing of our whole community".

He chose an interesting analogy to described the mostly hidden work already achieved.

"To those of you who have renovated an old Queenslander you will probably breathe deeply because you are probably about to feel the pain of the analogy I am about to use," he said.

"We can give it a lick of paint, put up some new ­curtains, try and flog it off, but it really won't do the old property justice.

"But if we work hard at it we'll see the hidden repair work needed under every piece of lino we lift up and we'll set the timeframe that is required.

"We have to do the hand work behind the scenes to make the foundation stuff of bringing that property back to life before we put in the flash kitchen, before we do the bathroom."

He said during that phase the casual observer would not notice any real difference to the outside of the home.

"It's all that foundation work. Fixing that bearer, getting rid of that dry rot, all that behind-the-scenes work.

"It doesn't look like anything has happened but lots has happened."

"I think that's the stage we are at now.

"A lot has been happening behind the scenes to build the foundations, building the narrative behind this purpose of moving forward to regroup together. We don't put in the flash kitchen yet, we haven't put all the decorations back on the wall, we haven't redone the verandas, but we have done all the important behind-the-scenes work to bring that Queenslander back to its former glory.

"I guess now we can move the community forward to where we want it to be."

Since that meeting in late January, Every Child CQ has begun running March workshops focused on the next step of designing and developing its Community Alliance as the leadership group to guide the future work of the organisation. Watch this space.

ECCQ's goals:

Make CQ a place of choice for families, children, youth and young adults.

Use global best practice to develop local collaborative approaches for impact.

Improve and widen community engagement approaches to better harness local experience, innovation and commitment.

Build and establish community wide platforms for learning communities.

Collaborate to improve health and well being

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