School attendance, community engagement and health have been some of the key issues to come under the spotlight at a series of regional forums to improve the wellbeing of children in the Pilbara this month.
The Growing a Healthy Child in the Pilbara forums, which are being held in four towns around the region, are bringing together stakeholders from a range of sectors to discuss the main issues facing children’s healthy development in the Pilbara.
The forums were organised by a group made up of Pilbara Education Region staff, Pilbara for Purpose, Rural Health West, the WA Primary Health Alliance and WA Country Health Service.
Rural Health West North West regional adviser Chris Pickett said the collaborative had identified children’s health as an area that could benefit from a more holistic approach.
“I think the big thing we need to face is that all of these things have an impact on kids — everything from police and justice to housing, employment, the environment, health, access to quality food and water, all these things are huge factors,” he said. “Improving the health of communities, you don’t do it just by ... fixing eyes or ears. It’s got to be an approach that covers the social and emotional wellbeing of people as well.”
Pilbara for Purpose chairman James Jarvis said the high level of interest that the forums had generated (some 70 people attended the Karratha event alone) showed stakeholders were keen for new ideas to tackle youth issues.
“These forums provide us with a 360-degree view of what’s actually happening in this patch and so I do think there are lots of ‘aha’ moments that are going on for people because they’re not usually looking at things from that perspective,” he said.
Pilbara Regional Education executive director Sheryl Parkin said ensuring regular attendance was the biggest challenge schools faced in the region, for reasons ranging from families not prioritising education to children being taken out of school for holidays.
“Schools cannot do this alone and we really need for the community, from families through to local businesses and community groups, to be talking up key messages about why it’s important,” she said.
“If we collectively own the issue, we have a much higher chance of being able to make a difference here.”
Forums have already been held in Karratha and Hedland and two more will be held in Newman and Tom Price later this month.
The aim is to lead to the identification of a handful of issues in each town for stakeholders to work towards at a local level, as well as one or two Pilbara-wide challenges that will become long-term focuses for investment.