Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies


Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

Adoption not the ‘fast resort’

Jeremy Sammut

17 November 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

js RR33 cover adoption family children parents 2The NSW Government has introduced new rules making it mandatory for all children in ‘out-of-home’ care to find a permanent home within two years of entering state care.

This means that children who are unable to be returned safely to their parents will be able to be adopted by new families.

These changes to the current over-emphasis on ‘family preservation’ at almost all costs are desperately needed — in NSW and in all other states and territories too — to prevent the harmful ‘drift’ or instability (repeat placement moves and repeat entries into care) suffered by the tens-of-thousands of Australian children who spend most of their childhoods in long-term care.

Lack of permanency — the safe and stable home all children need to thrive — leads to poor outcomes in life experienced by many children who leave care after they turn 18.

Nevertheless, critics argue that the NSW adoption reforms are a ‘grab the child and run’ policy that will ‘steal children’ all over again, without properly supporting parents to change and safely keep their children.

These emotive claims ignores the sweeping nature of the Their Future’s Matter child protection reforms under way in NSW. The centrepiece of these reforms includes ensuring that all parents with children at risk of entering care or in care receive targeted support services to help keep as many families together as possible.

A two-year deadline — a long time in the life of a child — for parents to get their acts together before adoption, may seem harsh but is essential to reset the pendulum that has swung too far in favour of defending parent’s rights to the detriment of protecting children’s rights

The NSW reforms are nationally significant — and are a politically-viable model that can be emulated by policymakers in other states — because they debunk the idea that adoption is some kind of child stealing ‘fast resort’.

In reality, adoptions in NSW will only occur after the best efforts to support parents have tried and failed to fix families, and only as the last resort in the best interests of children who otherwise will drift in damagingly unstable care without finding a ‘forever family’.

Dr Jeremy Sammut is a Senior Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies, and author of Resetting the Pendulum: Balanced, Effective, Accountable Child Protection Systems and Adoption Reform in Australia published this week.

SSM and anti-discrimination reform

Simon Cowan

17 November 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

SC marriage equality 1I, along with 7,817,246 of my fellow Australians, voted in favour of the legalisation of same sex marriage (SSM) in the government’s recent survey. I also announced my support of SSM in print and on television before and during the campaign. I am pleased that my gay friends will now have the opportunity to marry the people they love.

I also believe in freedom; not only freedom of speech and religion but also ‘forgotten’ freedoms like freedom of association. I am concerned about the use of government power to control people’s thought and speech.

However, while I do not think these restrictions are all that is standing between us and an explosion of racism etc, I do accept that my position is likely in the minority — and probably a low priority for the vast majority of Australians.

Attempts by the Coalition government to change section 18c of the Anti-Discrimination Act were not supported by the majority of the parliament, and polls commissioned by the pro-SSM camp suggest that only a small minority support laws allowing individuals in business to discriminate on religious grounds.

The point is not that support for fundamental rights should be contingent on securing majority support. However, having required SSM advocates meet this exact requirement, it is ironic (and no doubt galling) that some are seeking to hold SSM rights hostage in favour of rights that have not met the same requirement.

Moreover, having applied an extraordinary test to the validity of SSM, it is no longer just another battle in the culture wars. It cannot be dismissed as part of a far left push to overturn the values of ordinary Australians. Ordinary Australians have spoken for themselves.

Those in business currently do not have the right to act in accordance with their conscience and belief, or associate with who they wish to. As such — right or wrong — legalising SSM without overturning anti-discrimination provisions does not take from them any rights they currently hold.

On that basis SSM should be legalised within the current anti-discrimination law context. And ‘twere well it were done quickly’.

We can then man the barricades for greater freedom.

Education in a changing world

Blaise Joseph

17 November 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

BJ student technology child inventor 1No one denies technology is changing the world. NSW government’s ‘Education for a Changing World Symposium’ held last week tackled many important topics relating to education and technology. It’s certainly valuable to discuss how future teaching and learning should occur.

However, this kind of discussion tends to quickly devolve into vacuous bromides, apparently attempting to break the world record for the longest litany of mostly meaningless platitudes.

Apparently we must urgently “reconceive schooling.” With Australia’s declining literacy and numeracy results in international tests, it probably isn’t ideal to be focussing on well-intentioned but nebulous goals — given we’re not even doing the fundamentals as well as we should.

The cliché “preparing kids for jobs of the future which don’t exist yet” is repeated ad nauseam, an understandable response to concerns about technology replacing humans. However, a recent research report by my colleague Simon Cowan argued the extent to which jobs are at risk from technological advances is exaggerated; it is estimated that less than 10% of jobs fall in this category rather than the often-quoted 47%.

There is also a growing push for more use of technology in schools. But as my latest research shows, more technology doesn’t necessarily lead to better student outcomes. Australia already uses classroom technology significantly more than the OECD average and all the top-performing countries on international tests. There simply isn’t sufficient evidence to support further significant investments in this area. Technology can boost student achievement in some circumstances, so the focus should be on using it better rather than using it more.

In any case, unlike the fundamental competencies of literacy and numeracy, learning with and about new technologies can quickly become obsolete, due to the rapid nature of technological progress.

A wise old teacher once told me a great irony of education: if you teach kids the ‘latest’ thing, it will probably be the first thing you’ve taught them that becomes out of date.