That all children and young people are heard, are healthy and safe, reach their potential and are welcomed as valued members of the community and in doing so we build a brighter future for the whole community.
The office of the Commissioner for Children and Young People is committed to be collaborative with all stakeholders and ensure the values are core to all of our actions and work: respectful, inclusive, creative, positive, determined and independent.
What we do
The Commissioner’s work is underpinned by the Commissioner for Children and Young People Act 2006 (the Act).
The Act outlines the guiding principles, powers and functions of the office. In accordance with statutory obligations, the Commissioner:
- advocates for children and young people
- promotes the participation of children and young people in decision making that affects their lives and encourages government and non-government agencies to include children and young people in decision making
- promotes and monitors the wellbeing of children and young people in the community
- monitors the way in which government agencies investigate or otherwise deal with complaints from children and young people
- monitors trends in complaints
- initiates and conducts inquiries into any matter affecting the wellbeing of children and young people
- monitors, reviews and makes recommendations on laws, policies, programs and services affecting the wellbeing of children and young people
- promotes public awareness and understanding of matters relating to the wellbeing of children and young people
- conducts, coordinates and sponsors research into matters relating to the wellbeing of children and young people
- consults with children and young people from a broad range of socio-economic backgrounds and age groups throughout Western Australia each year.
The Act requires the Commissioner to give priority to, and have a special regard for, the interests and needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people and children and young people who are vulnerable or disadvantaged for any reason.
Under the Act, the Commissioner is not able to deal with complaints made by, or on behalf of, individuals, however he may respond to issues that identify possible systemic matters that negatively affect the wellbeing of children and young people more broadly.
Our guiding principles
As outlined in the Act:
- children and young people are entitled to live in a caring and nurturing environment, protected from harm and exploitation
- the contributions made by children and young people to the community should be recognised for their value and merit
- the views of children and young people on all matters affecting them should be given serious consideration and taken into account
- parents, guardians, families and communities have the primary role in safeguarding and promoting the wellbeing of their children and young people and should be supported in carrying out this role.
Our work has regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and is informed by the views and opinions of children and young people and the best available knowledge and evidence of what works well.
The Commissioner for Children and Young People
Colin Pettit is the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. He was appointed in November 2015 for a five-year term.
Colin has spent almost four decades working to improve the wellbeing of children and young people, particularly in delivering education services and programs to children and young people living in regional and remote areas of the State.
Colin has worked with children, young people, families and communities all over the State as a teacher and then principal in a number of regional schools, before holding the role of Executive Director Regional and Remote Education at the Western Australian Department of Education for three years.
Between 2010 and 2015, Colin was the Secretary of Education for the Tasmanian Department of Education. He is a former President of the Western Australian Primary Principals’ Association and Deputy President of the Australian Primary Principals’ Association.
The Commissioner is an independent statutory officer and reports directly to the Parliament of Western Australia. The Commissioner is able to table reports in the Parliament, conduct inquiries and require agencies to provide information on matters relating to children and young people’s wellbeing.
The Parliament has a Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People to regularly consult with the Commissioner and monitor, review and report to Parliament on the Commissioner’s exercise of his functions under the Act.
The Commissioner met with the Committee twice in 2015−16. The Committee was chaired by Ms Lisa Baker MLA.
On 16 June 2016 the Joint Standing Committee tabled its report Everybody’s Business: An examination into how the Commissioner for Children and Young People can enhance WA’s response to child abuse.
More information about the Committee is available from the Parliament of Western Australia website.
The Commissioner’s Corporate Executive
The office of the Commissioner for Children and Young People is divided into three main functions: policy and research, communication and engagement, and corporate support.
Trish Heath – Acting Director Policy and Research
Trish Heath has worked with the Commissioner’s office since February 2009 as a Principal Policy Officer. Trish initially trained as a youth worker and prior to commencing with the Commissioner had an extensive work history in the alcohol and drug sector in training, policy and service management roles in both government and non-government agencies.
Darren Gillespie - Director Communication and Engagement
Darren Gillespie has worked with the Commissioner for Children and Young People since 2008. Darren has degrees in education and marketing and has 15 years of experience in corporate communication and public relations, for both the private and government sectors. This includes roles with the (then) departments of Conservation and Land Management, Justice (Court Services) and Corrective Services.
Caroline Brasnett – Acting Manager Corporate Services
Caroline Brasnett joined the Commissioner for Children and Young People in January this year, after 43 years with the Department of Education in a range of education and managerial roles both in schools, including deputy principal of Western Australia’s second largest school, and in central administration with roles involving human resources, risk management, and copyright and intellectual property. This was followed by a year at the School Curriculum and Standards Authority.
Philippa Gardener – Business Manager (on leave)
Philippa Gardener has worked with the Commissioner for Children and Young People since 2008. Philippa holds a Master of Business Administration and has considerable experience and interest in corporate governance and process improvement. Philippa has worked in a number of state government agencies, including 13 years with the Department of Housing, seven years with the Department of the Attorney General, three years with the Water Corporation and 12 months with the Office of the Public Sector Standards Commissioner. Philippa undertook extended leave from September 2015.
Ambassadors for Children and Young People
The Commissioner for Children and Young People has 14 Ambassadors for Children and Young People. The Ambassador initiative recognises eminent people living in Western Australia who have a significant role in the community and commitment to supporting children and young people and their families.
The Ambassadors work with the Commissioner to increase community awareness and understanding of factors that impact children and young people’s wellbeing and where appropriate, provide support and guidance in the projects undertaken by the Commissioner and his staff. Western Australia’s Ambassadors for Children and Young People are:
Winthrop Professor Donna Cross
Mrs Annie Fogarty AM
Professor Colleen Hayward AM
Mrs Tonya McCusker AM
Ms June Oscar AO
Professor Trevor Parry AM
His Honour Judge Denis Reynolds
Hon. Barbara Scott
Professor Fiona Stanley AC
Dr Casta Tungaraza
Associate Professor Ted Wilkes AO
Mr David Wirrpanda
Mr Russell Woolf
Winthrop Professor Stephen Zubrick
Dr Casta Tungaraza was appointed as an Ambassador in early 2016 in recognition of her work to mentor and coach culturally and linguistically diverse young people in WA.
Recent examples of the role the Ambassadors play in the work of the office include:
- a presentation from Winthrop Professor Donna Cross at the Commissioner’s Children’s Week forum
- the support and community introductions from Ms June Oscar AO when the Commissioner visited Broome and Fitzroy Crossing to further his understanding of local children’s issues
- an editorial published in The West Australian newspaper by Associate Professor Ted Wilkes AO in support of the Commissioner’s findings from a consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people
- support provided by Professor Colleen Hayward AM to advocate on the findings of the report resulting from the consultation with Aboriginal children and young people, “Listen To Us”, including presenting to a group of agency directors general.
- Winthrop Professor Stephen Zubrick undertook an ethics review for the Commissioner’s engagement in education project and Mrs Annie Fogarty AM contributed via the reference group for this project.