Australian Institute of Criminology

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WA's Responsible Parenting Initiative : applying social contracts

74 Leichhardt Street, Griffith, ACT, Hilary MacWilliam
03 May 2006 -

Hilary MacWilliam
Western Australian Office of Crime Prevention


WA's Responsible Parenting Initiative is a new government approach to creating safe and healthy families and communities. It has been a controversial initiative from the beginning, particularly in relation to the legislative component that, when enacted, will enable courts to impose Responsible Parenting Orders on some parents requiring them to undertake certain activities and take up support services.

Debate on what role government should take be in ensuring families function well and children achieve their full potential has occurred within the context of a strained child protection system, and questions around how to intervene earlier with families to make sure issues do not escalate into child protection concerns. Some of the key questions that have arisen are: To what extent can parents be held accountable for their children's behaviour? To what extent, and at what point, should government intervene to ensure individuals meet their social (and in particular parental) responsibilities? To what extent is government responsible for ensuring there are supports in place to make this happen?

Recent research shows that parents who monitor their child, both by direct supervision and through having an awareness of their child's activities, decrease the likelihood of young people engaging in delinquent behaviour. Parents can already be held legally responsible for their actions and public opinion research shows that the public is supportive of the concept of parental responsibility for children's actions.

This seminar will consider these issues in relation to WA's Responsible Parenting Initiative in the context of growing international application of this conditionality where government's rewards or punishments become contingent on the behaviour of the individual.

About the presenter

Hilary MacWilliam is currently Manager of the Responsible Parenting Initiative at the Western Australian Department of Community Development. Her experience in youth, justice and crime prevention spans 17 years and is further expanded by significant collegial networks in Australia and the United Kingdom.