'Real change': Children's Parliament tackles poverty

United: Members of the 2168 Children's Parliament met at council chambers on Wednesday. Picture: Chris Lane
United: Members of the 2168 Children's Parliament met at council chambers on Wednesday. Picture: Chris Lane

Numbers don't always tell the story. But sometimes they are the story.

For example, last November the members of the 2168 Children's Parliament conducted a survey about the impact of poverty on children in the 2168 postcode. The survey consulted 675 children aged between nine and 12 from 10 primary schools across the 2168 postcode (and Lurnea Public School) - one of the most disadvantaged areas in the nation.

Some of the key findings included:

  • More than four in 10 children surveyed see poverty affecting other children and families within their community, highlighting unemployment, drugs and alcohol, gambling addiction and family breakdowns as major causes.
  • More than 80 per cent of children surveyed believe living in poverty affects children's learning at school.
  • More than half of children (55 per cent) surveyed reporting that they see mold in their homes and their homes need repair.
  • Four in 10 (41 per cent) said they have witnessed someone in their school miss out on food, while the same number said they or someone they know has missed out on school excursions because of poverty.
  • Almost one in 10 children said they did not have devices or access to Wi-Fi during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The 2168 Children's Parliament, which consists of 44 children representing 11 schools within the 2168 postcode, met on Wednesday at council chambers to present their findings to an Ambassadors' Panel which includes representatives of government and non-government agencies, council staff, school principals, teachers, and families. The Ambassadors' Panel role is to provide advocacy and action on matters raised.

Busby West Public School pupil Zach Maoujoud said the parliament gave children an opportunity to express how they feel about poverty, fairness and other wellness issues.

"It's a good chance for children to actually get a say in things instead of only being people who are in higher power and are older," he said.

"If you can reduce poverty there will be a gain in happiness and a decrease in sadness. It will just make the 2168 area better.

"The parliament is also good to meet new people instead of just sticking to your own school and I have made a lot of new friends."

The 2168 Children's Parliament is a partnership between Liverpool Council, the NSW Department of Education and Mission Australia-Miller Pathways and teaches students about democracy leadership and the value of social responsibility in the context of their local communities.

Based on the survey findings, Liverpool mayor Wendy Waller has written to both the Prime Minister and the NSW Premier calling for a concrete social policy change and allocation of funds to locally disadvantaged areas.

"Poverty might seem to be a mature issue; however, this research suggests that children aren't immune to the effects of poverty, recognising its impact on theirs and other children's health, housing, education and feelings of safety," she said.

"Suburbs in the 2168 postcode, where most survey respondents are from, are historically identified as areas of high socio-economic disadvantage. There have been few or no upgrades to housing provisions since the 1960s.

"While concerning, these survey findings aren't surprising and highlight how much work needs to be done to break the poverty chain in our community for today's youth and future generations to thrive."

Mayor Waller said the he Parliament completely "flips the old adage that children should be seen and not heard." The Children's parliament was established in 2016 and parliamentarians identify and discuss matters of importance to them, research and consult their peers through surveys and present their findings and recommendations at two parliament sittings each year.

"We believe there is an opportunity to enact real change at a grassroots level through initiatives like this," she said.