HOLDING SPACE: From Social Futures in Lismore - Frank Couglan, Child and Family worker - Mijung Jarjums Kids in Mind Program and Fiona Halligan, Manager, Family Referral Service. Listening to children is the important message during National Child Protection Week.
HOLDING SPACE: From Social Futures in Lismore - Frank Couglan, Child and Family worker - Mijung Jarjums Kids in Mind Program and Fiona Halligan, Manager, Family Referral Service. Listening to children is the important message during National Child Protection Week. Sophie Moeller

Listen to protect children

SOMETIMES what seems simple is the hardest thing to do.

But that is the advice from family support workers, Frank Couglan and Fiona Halligan from social justice organisation, Social Futures in Lismore during Child Protection Week.

When children are suffering abuse it is often just being heard that can break the cycle of shame, neglect and despair.

Mr Couglan sees many varied cases of children who are at risk from domestic family violence (DV), but cites his own personal story of a boy next door who would seek refuge at his home for a couple of hours each week.

Mr Coughlan's instincts in taking him in, with no questions asked, were proven correct when they met years later and the boy thanked him for 'just being there', admitting to being a victim of DV.

"He told me our welcoming him into the home did two things: it showed him there were other families not like his out there and he knew he always had a safe place to go to.” Ms Halligan said DV is about community awareness.

By listening to the children in our community and getting to know them as people we can identify changes in their appearance and behaviour, she said.

"The stronger the community the safer the children.

"It is important children feel they have a voice, they are part of the community, have a friend,” she said.

Both said children may not always want to talk and that is okay, through holding space with the child, you can give them confidence.

Not only are they are being heard, but there is an opportunity to "identify risks in a family that can be prevented before things escalate” and also "strengths that can be supported and built up”.

The enduring message of National Child Protection Week is that 'protecting children is everyone's business' and urges all Australians to 'play your part'.

It begins on Father's Day each year and is an opportunity for government, business and community to come together to promote the safety and wellbeing of children.

According to Family and Community Services (FACS) data the rates (per 1,000) of children and young people (0-17 years) in the Northern Rivers in 2016-2017 were 77.1 compared to the State average 52.3.

The Northern Rivers also has a larger percentage of children in out of home care than the State average.

If you suspect a friend is being abused, you can call or refer the person to:

Child Protection Helpline 132 111 for the cost of a local call 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.

The helpline will answer any questions and tell you what will happen next.

FACS won't tell anyone who reported the abuse.

You don't have to tell us your name if you don't want to.


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