Growing a responsible generation - Mrs Tonya McCusker
"Little people can make a big difference" is the catchcry of Kids Who Give WA, a group set up by Tonya McCusker and her husband, Governor Malcolm McCusker to encourage a greater sense of social responsibility among children and young people.
Kids Who Give WA
Since February, the couple have visited more than 93 primary schools across the State to encourage and celebrate giving projects developed by young people aged 12 years or under.
They had been "blown away” by the enthusiasm of the young people who had developed projects including growing sustainable community gardens, visiting aged-care residents and raising money for wells in South Sudan, Mrs McCusker said. One school held a circus to raise money for a Balinese orphanage.
As well as making young people feel good about themselves, she said such efforts contributed to their development as caring, outward-looking, citizens of the world.
They also learned that by working together, they could achieve results that made a difference to the lives of others.
“By starting at a young age we want to grow a generation focused on caring for others and giving back to their community.”
It was important to remind young people to be grateful for the many benefits they enjoyed and that were not shared by everyone in the world around them.
“There is enormous need out there —there are thousands of homeless people and people who can’t afford clothes and their children can’t go on excursions,” she said.
“On a wider scale, they have to appreciate that we live in this beautiful State, they have fresh food and water; they do not have to avoid landmines on their way to school.
“We should be grateful and show our appreciation by caring for others.”
She said there was more to developing a well-rounded person than academic and sporting achievement.
“If young people realise they are not the centre of the universe and are not entitled to the benefits they enjoy but are lucky and have a responsibility to give back, I think we will have a more caring community.”
Rejecting binge drinking
Efforts to normalise the responsible consumption of alcohol and to stop young people binge-drinking must continue to be given priority in the next five years, Mrs McCusker said.
“I would like to see the binge-drinking culture turned around – no more out of control parties; kids being king-hit,” she said.
“The idea that in order to have a good time you pre-load and go out and get blind drunk, must change.”
Mrs McCusker, an advisory board member and advocate for the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, said she hoped that in future binge-drinking would be rejected in the same way that smoking was now unaccepted by most young people.
“If our young people were educated to drink responsibly and alcohol was not so readily available, we would have a better society,” she said.
As well as reducing harm to individuals, a more socially responsible approach to alcohol consumption would also reduce repercussions in the broader community, she said.
“More than 5000 Australians die and 80,000 are admitted to hospital from alcohol-related causes each year and 75 per cent of all WA Police responses deal with alcohol-related issues.”