by Cheryl Vardon, Principal Commissioner, Queensland Family and Child Commission
Lockdown due to COVID-19 is hard. It is hard on busy parents already juggling multiple demands to educate their children, in addition to doing their paid work. It is hard on family budgets, trying to generate an income with reduced customers. It is hard for teachers having to connect with children on virtual platforms.
It is hard on children. Watching the daily tallies on TV and sharing their day with concerned adults add to their uncertainty. We must take time to listen to their voices. The voices that are so quiet they’d be easy to miss.
We know from our Growing Up in Queensland* study that children and young people feel the impacts of COVID-19. Young people were questioning what COVID-19 would mean for their education, travel, and employment. They were worried it would impact their academic results, and ability to achieve their goals.
This lockdown is different. Young people are at risk of catching the Delta variant and the age of people dying from the disease is going down. The government in other states keep changing their minds about year twelves going back to school. Queensland will probably follow their lead and our students don’t have a clear direction about what is going to happen here.
Queensland students haven’t experienced anything like this before and they are finding it difficult. One young person said that one of their worst fears was not passing their final year due to COVID-19 and having to repeat. Another young person said that their education might go down the drain.
But they remain a resourceful, resilient, and capable group. Up to 56 per cent of participants said they still felt positive about their future which was like their response to the 2018 survey. This shows that COVID-19 did not impact young peoples’ feelings of hope.
Research** shows the impacts of COVID-19 are amplified for Indigenous children and young people. They face disadvantages and inequality in accessing health care, their mental health is impacted, and their connection to the community is further inhibited. Virtual support is dependent on a good internet service which isn’t always available in remote areas of Queensland.
During this lockdown can I ask you to keep listening to all children, not just our own? As a community, we need to check in with any children in our lives and encourage them to reach out if they appear to be struggling. You can go to the QFCC website to find resources on how to start conversations about COVID-19.
Asking for support can be daunting, especially if you’re not sure if you’re contacting the right service or questioning whether you need help at all. If you are uncertain, then it’s best to reach out anyway.
But always keep listening to them and work through their concerns. It is important for young people to have their say and for their perspectives to be heard and acted upon.
*Growing Up in Queensland 2020 report is a biennial survey that captured the perspectives of 8,000 children and is used to inform industry, community organisations, governments, and other support services to respond to the needs of young people. The report was released at the State Library of Queensland in late April 2021. The full report can be accessed here.
**The indirect impacts of COVID‐19 on Aboriginal communities across New South Wales, Medical Journal of Australia 2021.