In 1954 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed Universal Children's Day as a day to promote friendship and understanding among children of the world. From this beginning it developed into a day that focused attention on the issues and needs of children and their families. UNICEF has been charged with the development of this concept worldwide. UNICEF charged countries to determine the date for Universal Children's Day to fit in with their own arrangements . In other countries Universal Children's Day is celebrated in November, such as the USA and Canada . Children's Week in Australia takes Universal Children's Day as its central focus and always in October. Universal Children's Day is a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children and also as a day of activity devoted to promoting the ideals and objectives of the Charter and the welfare of the children of the world. The Charter referred to is the, Convention on the Rights of the Child . The Convention is a universally agreed set of 54 articles founded on respect for the dignity and worth of each child, regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability. These standards set minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be respected by governments and communities.
Prior to 1977 Child Care Week was held in a number of Australian states and territories with the focus being children in care or those in institutions. Child Care Week was celebrated at different times of the year according to each state or territories preference.
In the 1980's t he Commonwealth Government was eager that Universal Children's Day should be celebrated throughout Australia and requested every State and Territory Children's Week Committee to agree to hold their Child Care Week celebration (formerly held at different times according to local convenience) in conjunction with Universal Children's Day and offered each state & territory committee or association $2,000 to celebrate children during October and to include Universal Children's Day.
In 1985, after many years of state observance of a week focusing mainly on children in care, it was decided to coordinate a national week to include all children. U nder the name of Children's Week, celebrations and activities would be held on the same date throughout Australia, commencing the Saturday before Universal Children's Day and concluding on the following Sunday and in addition the celebrations would broaden to include all children.
In 1987 the first Annual General Meeting of the Children's Week Council was held in Melbourne , and the Council incorporation took place in 1992. Representatives of state children's week committees from Victoria , New South Wales , Queensland and South Australia met to confirm the establishment of a national Children's Week Committee. Western Australia , the Australian Capital Territory , Tasmania and the Northern Territory joined the committee thereafter. The committee was to be known as the Children's Week Council of Australia (CWCoA) .
The original purpose of this national committee was to extend the scope and significance of Children's Week throughout Australia .
The national activities discussed at the first meeting included:-
(a) the determination of a uniform Children's Week each year.
(b) consideration of the choice of an Australia wide theme/or special thrust in future years.
(c) organisation of a national launch of Children's Week
(d) the planning of joint printing of posters and information.
Each state and territory applied for small grants from State or Federal Governments and sought private sponsorship to further broaden their programs and meet objectives. Committees were made up of community volunteers plus representatives from organisations, agencies and government departments involved and concerned with children.
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia was welcomed as Patron in 1997 and each successor has continued as National Patron to this present time.
The Governor-General's annual message
The CWCoA provides support and guidance at a national level, each state and territory has a Children's Week coordination role whose activities have evolved independently. Each has a unique history of development and coordination and though each state or territory is autonomous, share common goals formulated by the National Council.
In 1996 the council decided to adopt a permanent theme ' A Caring World Shares' as a reflection of the aims of Children's Week, while acknowledging the designated year on national posters and other printed materials. The national poster is coordinated by a member state or territory and distributed each year and similarly the Children's Week logo originally designed for South Australia has been adopted nationally.
The scope of national activities continue to the present time with all states and territories represented and not much has changed in the way Children's Week is coordinated, though Victoria and New South Wales are represented by government departments and in WA and NT children's week is vested in an organization. E ach state or territory may take up additional themes that are relevant to them. These themes may be proclaimed by the United Nations 'Year of' or by Federal or State Government initiatives.
In 2007 the Australian Government reiterated it's commitment to the CWCoA approving a three year annual grant of $3,000 to each state and territory and in addition a further $3000 to the CWCoA to continue its work with and for children.
In fact, 2007 was a year for several significant and successful initiatives for the Council. We very proudly welcomed The Wiggles as National Ambassadors, designed our new national web and reviewed our constitution to reflect the changing environment we work in. Our aims are to empower and encourage local communities to celebrate Children's Week and to assist the organisation of local activities and events that support and involve children and their families or carers. Thousands of children and their families around the country are involved in activities and events during Children's Week - through the participation of schools, playgroups, kindergartens, cultural groups, libraries and community groups.
At a national level Children's Week celebrations will continue to encompass the right of children to enjoy childhood, demonstrate their talents, skills and abilities through a diverse range of events and activities organised at national, state and territory levels.