The reported death of two babies in a period of two weeks as a result of living in overcrowded accommodation once again reminds us of how vulnerable and depended on us adults children are.
It continues to amaze the broader community that in a wealthy State like Western Australia there are over 100,000 children living below the poverty line. They struggle to understand how our State so rich in resources and possibilities can’t adequately house its most vulnerable.
For those of us who have dealt for decades with such issues these realities come as no surprise. Children in this State and across our nation continue to suffer injustices and are at risk of harm every day. They can’t be blamed for their predicament but bear its inevitable burden and consequences.
The dangerous and unfair world that they live in is created by us adults whether as parents, community members or decision makers. It’s a world that we shape and consciously or unconsciously sustain. It’s the choices we make and the social systems we create that lead to child poverty, maltreatment and even death. The tragic death of the two babies reported today cannot be simply left at the feet of their grieving mother, who by all reports, tried as best she could to protect them.
That she could not find adequate accommodation is the result of decades of inadequate attention to the housing needs of this State by successive governments. The inadequacy of social benefits and supports most likely contributed to the overcrowding and poor conditions that she and her babies lived in. It is the inattention to ensuring all citizens receive what they need to retain their safety and dignity that is at the heart of such tragedies. Too often our attention and priorities have been elsewhere and our children inevitably suffer the consequences.
These painful deaths must lead to a review of our priorities. Our political representatives must do all they can to ensure that citizens have all they need to lead a safe and dignified life. This is not beyond achievement. Poverty can be averted, housing can be made available and safety can be assured. None of it will happen unless citizens and government see them as non-negotiables. The alternative to not addressing our humanitarian needs is the ongoing suffering of our children.
Adj. Prof. Tony Pietropiccolo AM