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Just got back from Adelaide where Kathy and I visited my sister Amanda in hospital.

On every second bus shelter there seemed to be a poster exhorting us to put an end to child labour. It had a picture of a (black) child in a museum type enclosure, sorting some kind of grain. Children working for pay, it seemd to be saying, should be a thing of the past, remembered with horror, like the use of child miners and chimney sweeps in Britain two centuries ago.

The child was a model, of course. Real starving children don’t hang about in plastic boxes in museums.

But doesn’t that mean the child was being paid for work?

I agree children shouldn’t have to work in order to provide for themselves the basic necessities of life – food, clothing, basic education and medical care.

Although that view is probably a fairly recent one. Until a few centuries ago it was simply taken for granted that most children would contribute to family income as soon as they were able to do so – working in field, home or factory.

Sticking up posters on bus shelters in Adelaide is not going to make any contribution to the structural economic changes which will make it uneccessary for children to work to gain the basic necessities of life.

Supporting business, trade, industry and resource development will, because these things build the real wealth which enables families to free children for education and leisure.

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