The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth national plan for children’s wellbeing discourages smacking. Picture: Thinkstock Source: News Limited
SMACKING should be discouraged and drinking banned until the age of 21 to protect Australia’s kids, the nation’s top childhood experts will tell the Abbott Government on Monday.
The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth will launch its first national plan for children’s wellbeing – “The Nest” – which links kids’ health and happiness to the nation’s wealth.
It suggests smacking be discouraged, junk food advertising banned from kids’ TV and sporting events, and the legal drinking age raised to 21.
And it calls for more support to help parents struggling to cope with the stresses of raising children.
“Kids don’t come with a handbook,” alliance chief executive Lance Emerson said.
“They are the responsibility of the whole community and not just government.”
The alliance notes that Australia ranks in the bottom third of developed countries in terms of infant mortality, child poverty, jobless families, preschool attendance and children’s reading and science performance in Year 4.
One in five Australian children is “developmentally vulnerable”, it says.
Lowering the proportion of vulnerable children to 15 per cent would increase Australia’s national income by 7 per cent over 60 years.
“Meeting their needs is our economic as well as our ethical responsibility,” the alliance says in its report.
The Australian Medical Association has called for the drinking age to be raised to 25. Source: News Limited
Dr Emerson said children were Australia’s most important resource.
“For every child who doesn’t do too well, they might not become employed later on or they might be stuck in prison, which costs $1 million to $5 million over their lifetime,” he said.
“If we don’t address issues early on we will pay taxes to remedy it later.”
Dr Emerson called for more support to new parents, including free nursing visits before and after birth, and a focus on postnatal depression.
He said children with depressed dads were three times more likely than other kids to suffer behavioural problems at school.
He said it was “totally unethical” for the community to ignore families’ struggles until a child ended up in hospital with injuries.
The alliance wants the government to “lead action to reduce child smacking, including through strategies to empower parents to manage their children’s behaviour and improve their overall well-being”.
It also calls for a “national dialogue about raising the minimum drinking age to 21 years”.
Dr Emerson said the alliance was not calling for a ban on smacking but wanted to spark debate.
“Raising the drinking age to 21, culturally probably won’t work in this country but let’s have a discussion, given the rates of harmful drinking and vehicle accidents,” he said.
“It’s the same with smacking – let’s have a discussion about it.”
Australia’s doctors called for a ban on smacking children in July, when the Royal Australasian College of Physicians linking physical punishment to depression, anxiety and aggressive behaviour in children.
The Australian Medical Association has championed a rise in the drinking age to 25, on the grounds that young people’s brains are still developing.
The national plan for child and youth wellbeing will be launched at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday by Sarah Murdoch.