It started out as a neutral acronym, a convenient short form of Guardianship of the Minister, which made it’s way into common usage among professionals working with children in care. We polled professionals and the results are below.
Young people in care have told us they don’t like it. They find it offensive for its negative connotations and prefer terms like ‘children in care’ or, more formally, ‘children under the guardianship of the Minister’.
In the words of a Youth Advisory Committee member in 2011…
It’s wrong to call someone a ‘GOM kid’… it’s offensive…no-one thinks good of you when they say ‘he’s a GOM kid’
For this reason alone we should stop using it.
But there are other reasons.
Language conditions our thinking. Acronyms routinely applied to a group of people can become dehumanising and so Australia’s First Peoples now, legitimately, dislike the use of ‘ATSI’. Up til the end of the last century ‘the disabled’ were a common subject of the discourse until we made the conscious mindshift that they were ‘people with disabilities’ – that is people first and foremost and not defined by a disability.
When ‘GOM’ comes from the lips of even the most well-meaning person or appears in the pages of the most high-minded document it falls like the thud of a stamp indelibly marking the subject as someone permanently defined and confined by a circumstance over which they have no control.
We could abolish this peculiarly South Australian term from our speech and writing at once with a minor effort of mindfulness. It would be one more step to reforming our habits of thinking, and the attitudes of the community, and remind them that, to us, they are children and young people first, last and always.
The results of a poll on whether we should use the term “GOM’ conducted between 14 and 20 June 2016 gave the following results: