Doorstop - Launch of Get Up and Grow
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E & OE – PROOF ONLY
Speakers: Nicola Roxon, Dr Tony Okley, Senior Lecturer in Physical and Health Education & Director of Child Obesity, Michelle Mollard, Consortium member, Centre for Community Child Health, The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne.
Subjects: Get Up and Grow guidelines, overseas trained doctors, medical concerns of asylum seekers.
If I could just ask Tony, you're saying that this is the first guidelines of its kind but, I guess, kids eating junk food or not eating well and not exercising enough isn't something new. So how do you think that these guidelines are going to be different or be more helpful in helping our children than previous research?
Michelle, do you want to answer that?
I think the key here is that we're encouraging the environments that they're in to give them a varied - children a varied diet (inaudible).
I think - these are for the early childhood settings so they are encouraging through all their environments what to eat.
So perhaps I can even assist and you can talk in detail if you want to with the researchers.
The reason we think this is different is the process that's been gone through is to establish national guidelines to actually have them produced in a way that is simple to understand, that is clear. There's been a lot of competing information that's being provided to parents, whether it comes from different advice from a school or from a GP or from advertising.
What we've tried to do is ask our researchers to look at all the material that's available, look at and consult on what is agreed from the evidence, what is tested as being effective.
And I don't think we've had this process before when the materials that have been produced have then been so comprehensively tested with parents and with childcare settings to show that they're going to be useful and easy to use. And I'm not sure if you've had a chance to look at them but it is a format that I think means we will have an impact that we haven't been able to before, and I'm sure will create debate in the community as well.
It doesn't mean that children won't want to eat treats or food that's not good for them occasionally. This is about trying to give parents and childcare settings and others ways and techniques to reduce those opportunities and to make the other activities and foods interesting for them, something that we'll see in a few moments when we move into the dining room.
So my next question would be, obviously obesity has increased over the years. What's changed in our society that we now need these sort of guidelines? Like, say, when you were growing up, for example, Nicola, or - you know, your parents weren't given these guidelines and you turned out okay.
Did you all get that on tape?
So what is changing in our society that parents need to be given a pamphlet or a guideline on how to bring up their children?
Well, I think a lot of things are changing. The way we're living our lives are changing. It's a very complex social argument, probably beyond even the individual realms that we're all responsible here for.
Some of it's about safety and parents' fears about whether you can go and, you know, play in the street in the way that you might have 10 or 20 or 30 years ago.
Others are the increased advertising that children are subject to.
Some of it is just living more affluent lives. And we need to make sure that, while all those competing pressures are there - parents are calling out for this information.
The Government didn't just decide we should do this because we think it's a good idea.
Parents want authoritative information. Childcare centres want best practice evidence-based information available to them.
Now, this is a centre that's already adhering to all of those guidelines. But it means that in other settings there's an opportunity to be able to even improve that practice. And these are just tools that make that easier to happen.
Just to clarify, I'm not sure whether you saw the report in The Daily Telegraph today but there was mentions that this report would include telling children that, you know, if they had food on their plate at dinner they didn't have to eat it, don't be force feeding your children.
Can you explain that or clarify that mixed message perhaps, because I guess, you know, children need to eat their vegetables and their fruit. Does this report say, don't eat anything you don't want to?
Let me have the first go at it and you feel free if you want to add to it.
What it actually says, and you can have a look at details, is that providing choice to children is one of the best ways to get them to eat a variety of foods. And that it's good not to set habits of forcing children to finish everything that's on their plate or punishing or rewarding them for eating particular things, in a way that might set up unhealthy habits in the future particularly a fear or obsession with food - I know Kaye's done a lot of work with adolescent eating disorders - trying to make sure that you're doing it in a positive way.
So the guidelines just make the point that persisting offering lots of different options, making it interesting, and not forcing children when they're not hungry to eat large amounts of food. It is obviously a sensible thing to do.
But would you like to add to that?
I don't think I have anything to add to that except to invite you to speak to Kaye Gibbons later who developed the guidelines. But I think it's about setting up healthy behaviours with children and letting them - giving them the choice to make healthy choices.
Minister, isn't this just a nanny-state telling parents how to raise their kids?
It wouldn't be a press conference if we didn't get asked that question.
No, look, I don't think it is. I think this is very clearly providing information and assistance to parents, to childcare professions, and to educators. And this is information that is desperately called for and asked for.
What we're doing, instead of making laws or saying that you have to do it in this way, is pulling together all of the evidence, turning it into easy language, easy to understand messages, and providing this information to parents and to early childcare workers.
And that's what governments should do; make sure that we fund this sort of research and this material being available. And I think we don't need to be apologetic that providing good reliable authoritative information, based on evidence, as tips and guidelines for parents and childcare workers is anything other than a positive.
Minister, can I ask you a question on another topic?
Yes, let's quickly get everything done.
Sure. There have been a number of cases recently of foreign doctors working in much needed areas of specialist and GPs and then they're saying that red tape is meaning they're having to go back to their home countries and they can't continue working here.
Are you aware of these and does it concern you?
Look, there's been a couple of different reports in the media. One of them in particular has been about a New Zealand case that's before the courts, and I wouldn't comment on the particular situation other than to flag that we have actually introduced some new legislation into the parliament yesterday to deal with the particular circumstances for New Zealanders who study...
This is for Canadian and American doctors.
Yeah. Look, it's been a problem for some time in that there are procedures that have to be gone through, firstly to make sure that the qualifications are properly recognised; of course to make sure that people are working, if there are visa restrictions and others, in areas of need.
There are occasionally hiccups where the bureaucracy seems to get in the way of a sensible answer, and we're always happy to take those on board.
But mostly the rules and regulations are there to protect the quality of care and the safety of patients, and to make sure that those doctors who are coming in from overseas to help in our areas of workforce shortages are indeed working in those areas.
So if there are particular cases, we are always happy to follow those up. But I think the general processes work very well. And of course if there are any unreasonable outcomes we would often consider those to see if circumstances need to be altered.
So you will be looking into these ones?
We look into cases that are brought to our attention on a regular basis. I don't know which particular cases you're referring to but I'm happy to pursue any of them for you.
And just the other comment is to have a lot of - a lot of these doctors come out on Commonwealth programs that spend a lot of money on getting them here, and then if they have to go back again it seems like a bit of a waste of taxpayer...
Well look, we obviously do everything we can to keep highly qualified health professionals here in Australia servicing our community. The bottom line for us is always making sure safety and quality is taken account of, and making sure that people coming from other countries, particularly seeking changed immigration status, are going to work in areas of need. If those appropriate conditions are met then we do everything we can to keep them here.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] one last... Senator Johnston spoke about health concerns of those people arriving at Christmas Island. Do you have any health concerns?
No, look, I'll need to take that one on notice. I think the kids are getting ready for us...
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