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Opinion piece in The West Australian - Consider impact on young people of policies and decisions

by Colin Pettit

One quarter of our State’s population does not have a vote and yet these citizens have valuable perspectives that deserve to be heard and considered.

Last week, I challenged some of WA’s emerging leaders from the private and public sectors to consider how the decisions they and their organisations make will impact on WA’s children and young people. I was reassured by the responses — that they acknowledged the importance of considering the needs of children and also reflected on how simple an action it could be to closer examine the impact business and policy decisions have on our children.

An environmental impact assessment is a well known requirement across a range of sectors. Why do we not give the same due consideration across all legislative and policy decisions to our children and young people?

One approach is to consider introducing a child impact assessment tool to place the rights and needs of our children at the forefront of policy and legislative decision making. Similar initiatives are in place overseas. There are many factors that influence a child’s wellbeing, including having a nurturing family, being engaged in education and being a part of a safe, inclusive local environment.

Decisions and policies that influence the lives of families and the shape of our communities — planning and infrastructure, access to services, employment opportunities and working arrangements — are all having an impact on our children.

I am encouraged by some of the examples I am seeing from local governments, many of whom are actively engaging with their local young people and working inclusively with them to improve services and facilities — and seeing a broader community benefit as a result. One other example is the growing acceptance within industry sectors around the need for family-friendly rosters and achieving a better balance between working and family lives.

This week is National Children’s Week, where we celebrate the contribution children and young people make and acknowledge the rights of the child. We should make this our aim every week.

Published in The West Australian on page 63, 25 October 2019.