The Southern Cross The Southern Cross

Read the latest edition. Latest edition

Heartbreak in our backyard


The recent spate of tragedies involving vulnerable young children who have suffered serious injuries and, in two cases, death from alleged neglect, has sent shockwaves through the community.

Comments Print article

As we grapple to comprehend how this could happen here in Adelaide, there have been cries of outrage over why child protection services haven’t been able to keep these children safe.

Of course, the causes go much deeper than that. To blame a government department made up of people who, I’m sure, are totally committed to doing what they can to make a difference in this extremely complex and difficult area is grossly unfair in my view.

Nor is it as simple to say that the children’s parents should take responsibility, although it might be tempting to do so.

Sadly, many of these children are living in families that are caught up in generational cycles of poverty, unemployment, substance abuse and trauma. And the cases that make headlines are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to children at risk.

As a community, we all have to take responsibility for the social inequity and systemic disadvantage that prevents some people from living their lives to the full. It’s not a quick fix solution by any means but we need good social policies and support networks that address the root of the problem and are preventative as well as responsive.

It’s hard for those of us living in our safe, comfortable, middle-class world to accept that there can be such suffering and pain in our own backyard. But one only has to walk through our city laneways to see that there are people who are so isolated and removed from mainstream life that they have to sleep in a doorway.

Some have blankets or a sleeping bag and a few belongings but the other day I saw a young man near the railway station lying asleep on a foyer floor with not a single item to keep him warm or comfortable.

It is unfathomable to think how
the young man survives, particularly through this particularly harsh winter, but he is by no means on his own. Centacare Catholic Family Services, Vinnies and the Hutt St Centre have been reporting a drastic increase in demand for their services – and that demand is from the people who still have the capacity to seek help.

Housing unaffordability and the rental crisis is compounding the problem and forcing more people than ever to sleep rough. But it also puts huge pressure on families already under financial stress, potentially leading to a higher incidence of domestic violence and neglect.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how we can help; I feel especially helpless every time I walk past someone living on the streets.

As people of faith, perhaps all we can do is to see the face of Christ in each person and remember that face when it comes to doing our bit to support the vulnerable through donating our time or money.

We might not think it will help much but collectively we can make a difference.

Since 1941, our parishes and schools have participated in Catholic Charities month in September. This is the major fundraising campaign for the Archbishop’s umbrella charity supporting frontline agencies in our local community, including Centacare and the Hutt St Centre.

Every Catholic Charities envelope at the back of our churches or on the pews is a chance for us to respond to the need in our own backyard and to show our solidarity with those who are less fortunate than us.

It’s not the only solution but it is far better than being indifferent.


Show comments Hide comments
Will my comment be published? Read the guidelines.

More Opinion stories

Loading next article