SOS Children's Villages started working in Australia in 1991 and subsequently the national association was formed. An SOS Children's Village at Seaford Rise (in Adelaide, South Australia) was in operation between 1997 and 2004. Although the Children's Village was closed in February 2004, the Australian association continues to be active in the country with the family strengthening programme Clayton Bay Camp.
Some facts about Australia
The Commonwealth of Australia is the smallest continent in the world, but the sixth largest country by total area. It is located south-east of Asia, bound by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Coral Sea to the north-east, the Timor Sea to the north-west, the Indian Ocean to the west and the Tasman Sea to the south-east. Australia's external territories include Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Coral Sea Islands Territory, Heard Island and McDonald Islands Territory and Australian Antarctic Territory. The island state of Tasmania (67,800 km²) also belongs to the Commonwealth of Australia.
The population is 21.7 million (July 2011 est.). The capital is Canberra, where around 385,000 people live, and Sydney with over four million inhabitants is the biggest city.
Around a fifth of the population was born overseas; the majority of people are British or Irish in origin. The indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population accounts for 2.2 per cent of the population. In 2008, the government apologised for the maltreatment of the community in the past. Aborigines still suffer from high rates of imprisonment, unemployment and drug abuse. They also have a lower life expectancy rate than the non-indigenous population.
A high standard of living but increasing inequality
The people of Australia enjoy a high standard of living. In international comparisons, Australia ranks among the top countries regarding quality of life. Australians have access to high quality education and health care. The country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world - 79.4 years for men and 84.3 years for women.
The Australian economy has grown in the recent past, even during the 2008-2009 global crisis, albeit at a slower rate. Over 70 per cent of the population works in services, including education, banking and tourism. Industry employs about a quarter of the population. The chief industries include mining and textiles. Around 3.9 per cent work in agriculture: the main agricultural products are wheat and wool. The production of wine for export has become increasingly important. The unemployment rate peaked at 5.7 per cent in late 2009.
However, not everyone benefits from the high standard of living in the country. In recent decades there has been an increase in wealth inequality. The Australian Council of Social Services concluded that 2.2 million Australians were living in poverty, defined as surviving on an income that was half the median disposable earnings of Australian households. Poverty mostly affects indigenous Australians, single adults (especially those over 65), single-parent households, disabled people, and some groups of immigrants. People who are unemployed or on social benefits are also among the poor - an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Economic Survey carried out in 2010, recommended that the social benefit levels should be increased to help people escape the poverty trap.
Situation of the children in Australia
Around 18.3 per cent of the population of Australia is under the age of 14. Most Australian children have benefited from the high quality of life in the country; they have access to good health care and an education system which scores highly in the Programme for International Student Assessment evaluations.
However, according to the UNICEF report on poverty, one in seven Australian children is poor. Poverty brings with it other disadvantages: most children who are in need of protection come from households with low incomes. Poor households run a higher risk of becoming homeless - housing costs are high and the availability of adequate accommodation is limited.
The unemployment rate among 15 to 24 year olds is also a concern, especially because it has remained high over the past decades. In 2010, around 18 per cent of young people were unemployed.
SOS Children's Villages in Australia
Since the closure of SOS Children's Village Seaford Rise, SOS Children's Villages Australia has established The Clayton Bay camp, a purpose built children's holiday and aquatic adventure camp built on a 5 hectare (12 acre) property with direct frontage to Lake Alexandrina at Clayton Bay, approximately 90 Kilometres South of Adelaide. The camp, which comprises live-in accommodation for 70 children and staff, is used to conduct therapeutic recovery and adventure programmes for traumatised children separated from their birth parents and living in the care of their grandparents, as well as specialised adventure and therapeutic activities for disabled children and other children in government care.
SOS Children’s Villages Australia’s mission statement: "Protection, Security, and a Future for Every Child", focuses on advocacy activities for a change in state and federal child protection systems and children’s rights for those children separated from their parents.
More information on the website of SOS Children’s Villages in Australia here: http://sos-australia.com.au/