Changing the narrative about how we speak about children and young people will directly impact on their experiences now and throughout their lives. Language is a powerful tool that can label and stigmatise children, or inspire futures. I have seen the direct impact of deficit language and how this impacts on the way we respond to children and the way children perceive themselves longer term.
Young people have told the QFCC that policies should specifically address and extinguish practices that stigmatise and label children. Queensland has already put policies in place to shift from a culture of considering children who are absent from their care placement as ‘absconders’, a term which created a perception of criminality and a belief it was an issue requiring a criminal response.
The issue of criminalisation will now be further addressed through the Joint agency protocol to reduce preventable police call-outs to residential care. However we need to continue this work and inspire positive perceptions of children, particularly children living in care.
As a young person told the QFCC, ‘We need to change the way people label us. Show people where you have got to from what you’ve come from [trauma and abuse]. Change the perception.’
I encourage you to reflect on ways that you can help change the narrative and improve the way young people perceive themselves.