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Elliot Castello

Five ways to end violence against children

Elliot Costello is the co-founder and CEO of YGAP a volunteer-run social enterprise that works to empower disadvantaged people in Australia, Kenya and South Africa. YGAP’s Polished Man campaign, now in its second year, is a fundraising campaign to help end violence against children. It challenges men to paint one fingernail – signifying the one in five children who suffer abuse globally – and raise funds to drive social change.

Increase the awareness of violence against children

There hasn’t been a national conversation about violence against children, but the Royal Commission into Family Violence and the tragic case of Luke Batty, the boy killed by his father at cricket training in Tyabb, put it on the agenda. Statistics show that one in five children globally will suffer physical and/or sexual violence before the age of 18. That’s 18.4 per cent of kids globally. Unfortunately 90 per cent of sexual violence against children is by men. While abuse is statistically higher in South East Asia and Africa, violence towards children occurs in Australia, too. It’s a really complex issue. There’s not one root cause or specific issue that leads to a child experiencing violence. There are contributing factors including poverty, socio-economic issues, drugs and alcohol.

Get men talking

Polished Man is a campaign YGAP runs in October to engage and challenge men to help end violence against children. Why not bring men to the table to help end this problem? Given the high statistics around men perpetrating a lot of the violence we need to have men involved in the conversation to end it. When we talk to guys during the campaign, many will say, ‘I wasn’t aware or I can’t believe that happens’. Part of the problem is a result of people not even being exposed to the issue. We need to talk about what a good male should be; not just as a parent, but also in general society. There is an opportunity to have conversations about the changing nature of the family unit. We encourage men to have these conversations in workplaces, in the gym and contribute to behavioural change.

Spend money wisely

It’s one thing to make noise and raise funds, it’s another thing to effectively spend the money. We invest in emergency relief and trauma recovery. We work with leading organisations that support victims of violence including Child Wise here in Australia and Hagar International in Cambodia. We’re also about to go into partnership with groups in South Africa, Kenya and America, too. They’re working directly with the implications of violence.

Develop preventive measures

This is going a step further, asking what causes violence before it occurs and developing solutions. We invest in really good education programs and tools for parents so they can understand ways to manage emotions and difficult situations. It might involve looking at training parents on non-violence disciplinary issues. In addition, we need to look at ways to end poverty, because a child is more susceptible to violence when they’re living in disadvantaged circumstances. When they’re marginalised, they haven’t got certain forms of protection or education, so they are at higher risk of experiencing violence.

Set big goals

In September the United Nations will release new Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We have seen some major reductions in poverty in the last 15 years through MDGs. A lot of that is driven through good aid. It’s also driven by the economic development of countries like India and China. As a sector we are proud of what’s happening and the improvements that continue to be made. Ending extreme poverty 15 years ago might have seemed like idealism, but the World Bank and UN groups are talking about the issue and saying we’ve made a massive stride in the right direction. This generation can have a voice because of the ability to connect with campaigns and they use social and traditional media to do so. They have the capacity to do something.

Elliot Costello completed a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Commerce at Deakin University. He majored in international relations and accounting. To learn more about Polished Man or get involved visit

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