The theme for National Child Protection Week 2021 is ‘Every child, in every community, needs a fair go’.

This is such a relevant theme because children can thrive and be healthy when they are provided with what they need to develop well. To treat all of Australia’s children fairly, we need to make sure every family and community are supported to meet the developmental needs of their children.

Research studies have revealed that children who grow up in families impacted by problematic alcohol and other drug use are vulnerable to many issues. They are prone to immediate issues such as child abuse, domestic violence, neglect, family breakdown, malnutrition, as well as enduring issues such as homelessness, mental health, physical health, crime, trauma, divorce, obesity, substance misuse and suicide. However, with the right support, children affected by another’s alcohol or drug use can overcome these challenges.

The Center for Disease Control – Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the world’s largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and household challenges and later life health and wellbeing. This study revealed how early childhood adversity is strongly related to development of risk factors for wellbeing throughout the course of life.

Sadly, many children are not getting a fair go in Australia. A report from the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research* titled ‘The Hidden Harm: Alcohol’s Impact on Children and Families’ found:

  • Over a million Australian children are negatively impacted in some way by the drinking of others.
  • 142,582 children are substantially impacted.
  • 10,166 are within the child protection system where a carer’s problematic drinking has been identified as a factor.

At Holyoake, we believe it is vital to support not just people who are impacted by their own substance misuse, but also their families and others affected by their choices. Our unique family systems approach recognises the ripple effect on all family members – especially children.

This holistic approach also acknowledges that positive change can be achieved by working with anyone within the family system. Accordingly, we provide a range of individual and group programs for children, adolescents, parents, men, women, partners, and couples. When it comes to children specifically, our programs include:

  • Attachment Art and Play Program
    This program is for caregivers and their children who have been impacted by their own or significant other’s alcohol and/or drug misuse. We use art and play to build the caregiver-child relationship, reduce parental stress, provide support, and improve communication.
  • Young People’s Program
    This program is for young people aged 3-17 years who are impacted by parental or significant other’s alcohol and/or drug misuse. We help them to develop the knowledge and skills to cope with their experience and foster an increased sense of self-esteem.
  • Adolescent Program
    This program helps young people aged 12-17 years to address their own misuse of alcohol and/or drugs, and to gain confidence, stay safe and reduce the harm of substances.
  • Child Parent Relationship Training
    This group program for caregivers helps them to understand their children’s emotional needs and to communicate more effectively. We use the principles of child centred play therapy to assist caregivers to parent therapeutically and become the agent of change for their child.

Many parents and children have experienced the benefits of Holyoake’s holistic, evidence-based, and non-judgemental approach. One mother said “I think the Attachment Art and Play Program is so helpful for parents to get the connection back with their children. I’m so grateful for the care and compassion at Holyoake. I now have my son living with me full time and I think he is finally enjoying the childhood he so deserves.”

National Child Protection Week is a good time for us to reflect on what we can do to give children a fair go. If you or someone you care about needs support, please contact Holyoake on 08-94164444 or email

*Laslett, AM., Mugavin, J., Jiang, H., Manton, E., Callinan, S., MacLean, S., & Room, R. (2015). The hidden harm: Alcohol’s impact on children and families. Canberra: Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.