Leading child rights organisaton Save the Children has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the South Australian government to include dedicated spaces in relief centres for children during disasters.
The MoU ensures child friendly spaces are established in relief centres when a bushfire or other disaster hits.
Child friendly spaces give children who’ve experienced the distress and uncertainty of a disaster a safe space where they can play, socialise and simply be children, and it provides information and advice to parents on how to support their children during and after the event.
Save the Children’s Director of South Australia Catherine Harris said the agreement represented a significant commitment by the South Australian government to address shortfalls in disaster planning.
“This agreement is an important step in the right direction and will make a huge difference for kids who experience disasters in South Australia.
“With climate-fuelled weather events becoming more frequent we cannot underestimate the long-term impacts disasters have on the emotional wellbeing of children.
“Far better planning for children is a must and we have been working closely with the South Australian Government for a number of years to systematically embed children in their disaster processes.”
The MoU states that “a dedicated child safe area is allocated within each relief centre, where children’s activities can be undertaken”.
They also include provisions to ensure the deployment of Save the Children personnel to relief centres, and activity kits to support children and young people.
In its submission to the bushfires Royal Commission and other inquiries in 2020, Save the Children called out a “systematic failing” of children’s needs in the immediate response to the bushfires.
The child rights organisation called for children’s needs to be prioritised alongside other essential services in future emergencies.
Ms Harris said it was important there were similar agreements with other state governments who didn’t have current arrangements in place to establish Child Friendly Spaces during disasters.
“Children must never be an afterthought when responding to a disaster like flooding or bushfires. Adequate planning to ensure their wellbeing must be enshrined in disaster planning throughout the country,” she said.
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