The Inside Word

2024 April State Politics Update

She’s 24 next week. I’ve got a year to go. 

As a young father I nursed my daughter for the first time, looked into her little eyes and set a goal: C.J. 25. 

Using her first and middle initials, C.J. 25 was my vision for my first born and would shape the kind of parent I wanted to be. I was not motivated by what she might do for a living or who her partner might be. I was committed entirely to the kind of human CJ would be by age 25. Her income was of no interest to me, but her values, her kindness, her self-awareness, her love for others – they would be our metrics. Despite generations of family trauma, poverty, mental illness and suicide and my own divorce, with 12 months to go things are looking positive. I am very proud of who CJ has become and quietly chuffed at how I pulled up as a parent. 

But this was only possible because of two things: 1) I was blessed with my own parents who modelled love and selflessness by giving everything they had for me and my sister and 2) those same parents held multiple jobs for years to ensure I received a quality education. 

Sadly, an increasing number of Queensland kids do not receive the same love, safety, and opportunity. 

As of June 2023, 11,593 kids were in out-of-home care (kinship, foster, residential). Over the previous 5 years this marked a 31.5 per cent increase in kinship care and an 85.4 per cent increase in residential care, while foster care over the same period declined by 4.6 per cent.

In Queensland, 1 in 4 children are developmentally vulnerable. That’s over 15,000 kids starting school each year with developmental vulnerability.

Some of this is the result of nearly 1 in 5 Queensland children aged 0-8 living in areas of high socio-economic disadvantage. 

In September 2023, Queensland’s Children and Family Commission (QFCC) reported 20 young Queenslanders died by suicide in 2022–23, the same number as recorded in 2021–22 but well below the higher numbers recorded in 2020–21 (30) and in 2018–19 (37).

QFCC data indicates eight out of 20 young people who died by suicide in 2022–23 had a history of alleged abuse and neglect, with emotional and physical abuse the most common abuse experienced.

And I don’t need or want to add fuel to the fire of our states youth crime rates. 

As concerning as they are, these numbers are symptoms of a deeper and concerning challenge confronting our community and policy makers: our investment in children and families. 

Intentional government investment in the early years of life is pivotal for lifelong socio-economic outcomes due to the profound impact of early experiences on human development. By directing our attention and resources towards evidence-based interventions during a person’s critical early years, governments can mitigate disparities and prevent many of the aforementioned statistics from becoming reality.

Early childhood programs – including healthcare, nutrition, education, and family support services – not only promote healthy development but also yield substantial returns on investment.

Children who receive early intervention are more likely to succeed academically, earn higher incomes, and contribute positively to the economy. Moreover, by addressing root causes of inequality, early intervention initiatives pave the way for long-term socio-economic mobility, reducing reliance on social welfare programs and enhancing overall individual and societal well-being.

The human brain experiences 90 per cent of its development within the first 5 years of life, so a commitment to these early years is crucial if we aim for healthy, productive, resilient, and engaged adults. 

I didn’t really know what I was doing over the last 24 years. And I am sure I made plenty of mistakes along the way, but in seeking to be an adult CJ could always rely on, who loved her unconditionally and who expresses pride in who she has become seems to have worked for us.

Imagine if all of Queensland’s 1.6 million children knew there was even a single adult in this world who was proud of them? 

A significant and visionary election opportunity in 2024.

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