Kids must come first in our community

FOR one group of dedicated Coffs Harbour residents, protecting children isn't just their job; it's their duty as community members.

Formed more than 10 years ago to address child protection issues in the region, the Coffs Harbour Child Protection Interagency Committee consists of 15 government and non-government agencies who work with children and families.

"Unfortunately child abuse and neglect is Australia's greatest social problem, and it happens because people are often reluctant to become involved," committee member and Uniting Care Burnside Family Support Service worker Ruth Allen!said.

With the aim of changing this, the committee work together to promote the important message of putting children first by keeping them safe.

"We take a united approach to addressing child protection issues in the community.

"By working together we are able to achieve much more than we would if we all worked alone," Ms Allen said.

"Every child deserves respect and safety, and child abuse will only stop if we all work together to create a safe environment."

As well as looking at ways to address issues, the committee who meet once a month organise different activities and training for workers and families.

"Child-friendly communities will help children to be seen and heard and we have taken the theme for this year's Child Protection Week in Coffs Harbour to be 'Kids Come First in our Community'."

Coffs Harbour Child Protection Interagency Committee invited 60 schools and preschools in the Coffs LGA to join them in celebrating Child Protection Week through the children's expression of artwork depicting the theme 'what makes me feel safe in my community'.

This artwork, which is sponsored by local businesses, has been displayed throughout the week at the Palms shopping centre upstairs stage area and will be the setting of a special celebration taking place at 10am today.

Various guest speakers will discuss the need of child protection in our own community and provide an opportunity to view the incredible artworks from our talented children.

Face painting will be available for children as well as information on services available to assist families and their children feel safe within our community.

The winning artworks will also be selected, with prizes presented to the schools.

"Child abuse and neglect affects the whole community and hosting an event like this, is one way we can help the cause on a local level," Ms Allen said.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the businesses who showed their support by sponsoring a canvas. It's wonderful to see the community become involved.

"In child friendly communities, everyone accepts that the safety and well being of children is everyone's responsibility. We need to encourage that everyone is involved and together we can make a positive difference in the lives of children within our community."

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