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 the 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. Under 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:
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 2018
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. Each 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.
'Children should be seen and not heard', how often have we heard these words? Yet we don't really pause to think about what they mean, about the impact they may have.
For all of us, children represent hope and the future, how we care for, respect and nurture our children that will determine our prosperity and happiness. It makes sense that we should actively encourage the views of children, listen to their ideas, and value their insights.
The theme for this year's Children's Week has been nominated as Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that 'Children's views and opinions are respected. They have the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child and the right to be heard.'
So this year, as we continue the journey of rearing confident, happy and safe children we resolve to listen to our children, to take heed of what they have to say and their perspective on the world. This will be good for children; it will be good for all of us.
I thank the Children's Week Council of Australia for all it does in the name of our children and for Children's Week around Australia.