The Commonwealth Government will be abolishing the ‘conscientious objector’ exemption on children’s vaccinations from 1 January 2016.
What does this mean?
It means that unless your child is vaccinated, you will not have access to taxpayer funded Child Care Benefits, the Child Care Rebate and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement. Exceptions to this are medical exemptions, and religious exemptions, where the governing body has a formally registered objection approved by the Government.
There are approximately 39000 children under seven that are not vaccinated under the conscientious objector exemption – so thousands of families will be affected. You can read more about this here in the Government’s media release and here in a media article by The Australian.
This move has been backed by the Australian Medical Association, and public policy and medical research support this action. They all understand that vaccination is very important to the community’s wellbeing, and see this as an action to increase vaccination rates.
This decision has caused a lot of reaction – you can read all over social and mainstream media options such as the justification that taxpayers should not be supporting those that don’t vaccinate and put others in the community at risk. You can also read about another side of the issue, such as in this article by Kristine Macartney, Associate Professor, Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health atUniversity of Sydney, discussing alternate approaches to encourage families to vaccinate their children, by removing the barriers that are economic, social or geographic in nature.
NCNS support the importance of vaccinations for children, and are fully aware of the difficulties many of our struggling families face in trying to comply with the vaccination schedule. So we have removed many of the barriers – we run an Aboriginal Outreach Immunisation Clinic monthly in partnership with Public Health. The clinic operates from Koolyangarra Aboriginal Child & Family Centre in Cranebrook, and offers free vaccinations (as well other forms of care) in a safe, welcoming environment that is easily accessible by our families. So far, we have had 6 Outreach sessions with 29 children who are now fully vaccinated to date.
NCNS understands that for families in crisis, or with complex needs, it can be a real challenge to keep track of immunisation schedules and visits. NCNS is working with Public Health to ensure all Aboriginal kids are on track with their immunisations and this is just some of the important work that is done a Koolyangarra Aboriginal Child and Family Centre, and by our dedicated Aboriginal Early Childhood Team.