If you wear a “Fuck Tony Abbott” T-shirt, the hysterical cries of “Won’t somebody please think of children” roll in on cue. But when the Liberals flout Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (“children have the right to relax, play and to join in a wide range of leisure activities”), the same moral crusaders are strangely silent.
The Department of Social Services has announced that $2.7 million of funding will be cut from five adventure playgrounds in Victoria over the next three years, robbing many working class kids of the opportunity to play in a safe outdoor space.
Adventure playgrounds are primarily built in high rise public estates that house working class families, single parents, newly arrived migrants and the disadvantaged.
The Fitzroy adventure playground, affectionately known as “Cubbies”, opened in 1974. It was Australia’s first. Located in the Atherton Gardens Estate, Cubbies is a rare green space in Fitzroy that offers a free, safe and secure space to play for children living in commission high rises.
According to Makot Wol, a playground worker who spoke to the ABC’s 7:30 program, Cubbies “is like a backyard or front yard to anyone who is living in the flats. As we all know, the flats are a very tiny space for kids to run around, so when they come down here they have the space to express themselves.”
Jo MacFarlane from the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, also speaking to 7:30, said: “Many of the families and their children that attend Cubbies are from the Horn of Africa or from the South Sudanese community and come from refugee backgrounds and fled from war overseas. Cubbies is part of the healing place for many of these families.”
Barbara Champion, executive director of Play Australia, asked: “Why is it that the most disadvantaged, marginalised and at risk children, like those that are supported through the adventure playground programs, are made to suffer at the hands of those who make these budget decisions? We can find millions of dollars for roads, warplanes and infrastructure, but not for children who need a safe and secure place to play.”
In response, a spokesperson for social services minister Kevin Andrews wrote, “Local playgrounds are a matter for local and state governments – the federal government should not be responsible for swings and slides.”
The Liberals are well aware that adventure playgrounds provide more than “swings and slides”. They have no hesitation in destroying the sense of community and belonging that adventure playgrounds can provide.
Conservative politicians love using children to point score. Their attitude is clear: when there are single mums to demonise, conventional gender roles to reinforce or racist lies to peddle (think “children overboard”), there is no shortage of appeals to “kids’ welfare”.
Once the point’s been made, the same kids can rot, for all the politicians care. The Abbott government’s horror budget, not content with targeting students, pensioners and the unemployed, is also out to get the kids.
The Liberals hate children.