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Children's champions

By Barbara Biggs - posted Monday, 17 September 2007

How is it that three ordinary people from the same community have been honoured by being named Children’s Champions for 2007 by the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect?

I guess there are few communities in Australia that have worked so hard to change their status of social disadvantage, as Windale.

In 1999 Windale was identified as in the top 1 per cent of worst postcodes for child abuse and neglect reporting to the Department of Community Services. Thanks to an injection of government funding for a string of community initiatives, which galvanised volunteers, by 2003 the suburb had done an extraordinary about face, moving to the top 25 per cent.


Since that time, those workers have been replaced by a new generation, including Children’s Champions, grandparents Carmel Adamson, Roselea Newburn, Ray Smith and dozens of other selfless volunteers who give freely of their time and commitment to maintain those ground-breaking changes.

Meanwhile, some sectors of the community continue to taunt Windale, making jokes at the expense of residents who worked so hard to turn their community around.

One local radio station regularly runs a segment by “Wayne from Windale” which presents an insulting view of their community.

But isn’t the journalist’s code of ethics and agenda about presenting a balanced view and keeping up with the times?

Perceptions die hard, but I wonder if those who continue to rubbish those less fortunate than themselves understand that they are part of the problem for communities like Windale, not part of the solution.

The real solutions lie with people like the Children’s Champions, but it’s up to the wider community to give them a break - and the community their due.


“We just want to be seen and treated like everyone else,” says Carmel, the finalist winner of the 2007 National Child Protection Week Children’s Champion Award. Carmel left her home in Sydney to care for her three Indigenous Windale grandchildren after a family crisis.

Originally visiting the local Alcazar community house for support with her new role as full-time single mother at the age of 54, Carmel soon began to help at the house and offer support herself to other struggling grandparents. She is now working to establish a youth drop-in centre where teenagers can hang out and participate in communal activities.

Roselea Newburn, a grandmother of five, has spent the past four years working with the community to help dispel the myth that Indigenous kids don’t need to go to school. On more than half a dozen committees, she liaises with a Home School Liaison Officer, local shops, the library and other places to engage children in a positive way.

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First published in the Newcastle Herald on September 6, 2007.

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About the Author

Barbara Biggs is a former journalist and author of a two-part autobiography, In Moral Danger and The Road Home, launched in May 2004 by Peter Hollingworth and Chat Room in 2006. Her latest book is Sex and Money: How to Get More. Barbara is convenor of the National Council for Children Post-Separation,

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