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Promoting children and young people's participation

Consultation with children and young people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds

During 2015–16 the Commissioner undertook a project to consult children and young people from CALD backgrounds across WA about the opportunities and challenges in their lives and their access to support. A reference group and a literature review informed the project.

Many of the wellbeing needs of children and young people from CALD backgrounds are similar to other WA children and young people but research suggests they also face some unique challenges including language and cultural barriers or traumatic pre-migration experiences.

The Commissioner partnered with the Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia (YACWA) to support a group of CALD young people aged between 18 and 25 years to act as consultation ‘peer leaders’. Following training, the peer leaders consulted with young people up to the age of 18 years in their local communities.

In addition, the Commissioner also asked children and young people under the age of 18 years and from refugee and migrant backgrounds to have their say in an online survey.

Almost 300 children and young people participated, sharing their experiences and views on the issues and opportunities they have had in their lives. Broad themes emerged from this consultation, including that the best things about living in Australia were family and friends, school, sport, freedom and opportunities. Making friends, learning English, racism and being separated from family were some of the main issues faced by refugee and migrant children and young people when settling into Australian life.

The report and other resources based on this consultation were released in February 2016 and a seminar on the findings was held in March 2016 for people working with CALD children across the government and non-government sectors. Approximately 180 people attended this seminar, with feedback received from 86 audience members reporting high levels of satisfaction with the seminar and the relevance the report had to their work.

Consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people

In 2014–15 the acting Commissioner consulted 1,271 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people across WA to give them a voice on what is important to them, what they hope to do in the future and what help they need to get there.

The views expressed by these children and young people were the foundation of a landmark report, “Listen To Us”: Using the views of WA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to improve policy and service delivery, tabled in State Parliament in August 2015.

More information on this project can be found below in Influencing policy, services, attitudes and outcomes.

Consultations with vulnerable children and young people

In recognition of the increased vulnerability of children who are placed in out-of-home care or in contact with the youth justice system, the Commissioner has undertaken specific consultations with these groups.

The out-of-home care consultation focuses on how children and young people raise concerns and access help and support. Working in partnership with the Department for Child Protection and Family Support and the CREATE Foundation, the consultation heard from nearly 100 children and young people. The findings from the consultation will be used to guide the Department’s reform agenda and by the Commissioner to inform further advocacy work regarding children and young people in out-of-home care.

In a separate project, the Commissioner consulted 92 young people who have contact with the state’s youth justice system. Working in collaboration with the Department of Corrective Services, the consultation focused on the factors that influence their involvement in offending activity and what works to address this behaviour and help them stay out of trouble. These young people were consulted through face-to-face interviews, phone interviews, small group discussion and art-based activities.

Ten family members were also interviewed to hear their views on what is helpful for families in this situation. The findings from both of these consultations will be published in the second half of 2016.

Advisory Committees

The Commissioner’s Advisory Committees provide children and young people with the opportunity to have their views heard and to speak with the Commissioner and his staff. The information and advice provided by the Advisory Committees helps to guide the work of the Commissioner.

In December 2015 the two Advisory Committees appointed for the 2015 calendar year provided their ‘Us and Our Community’ reports to the Commissioner on issues that are important to them.

  • The School of Special Education Needs: Sensory Advisory Committee was a group of 16 high school students from across the Perth metropolitan region who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing or have vision impairment. The Committee looked at the impact of social media on the health and wellbeing of young people with a sensory loss. This survey was considered the first of its type with no previous research regarding the use of social media by children and young people with sensory disability identified.
  • The Wyndham District High School Student Leadership Team Advisory Committee comprised 10 children from across the junior and senior years who were involved in community engagement at their school. The committee filmed around their town and discussed the positive and challenging aspects of life in the remote East Kimberley.

The reports from both of these committees are available on the Commissioner’s website.

The Commissioner called for expressions of interest for existing groups of young people to form advisory committees in 2016. Two groups were selected to be involved in a project on engaging children in education. The 2016 committees are:

The students are working with the Commissioner throughout the year to look at what barriers children and young people face in education and the factors that support their learning. The feedback from these committees is informing the Commissioner’s consultation on school and learning

Regional visits

The Commissioner regularly visits regional and remote WA to provide an opportunity for children and young people living in these areas, as well as their families and those who work to support their wellbeing, to have their views heard. The information gained during these visits allows the Commissioner to promote better access to services for children and young people and their families living in regional WA.

In 2015–16 the Commissioner undertook a number of regional visits that included the following towns and communities: Donnybrook, Bunbury, Busselton, Esperance, Norseman, Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, Broome, Fitzroy Crossing, York, Pingelly, Narrogin, Albany, Mt Barker, Karratha, Wickham, Roebourne and South Hedland.

On each regional visit, the Commissioner spoke with children and young people about local issues and met with government and non-government service providers. Copies of regional visit reports are published on the Commissioner’s website and distributed to stakeholders with whom the Commissioner met. Since 2008 the Commissioner has undertaken more than 50 regional consultation visits throughout the state.


Monitoring complaints made by children and young people

Children and young people face unique barriers to raising concerns and making complaints. In January 2016 the Commissioner published the office’s third report on complaints systems in government agencies.

The biennial survey monitors the way government agencies deal with complaints and the trends in complaints made by, or on behalf of, children and young people. The third report reveals a number of positive changes.

Improvements in the number of agencies that are implementing changes to make their complaints systems more accessible and helpful to children and young people are notable.

Increases to the range of methods available for children and young people to make complaints and the development of information about making a complaint targeted directly to children and young people were also a focus of improvements undertaken.

The number of agencies that have improved the way they record complaints from children and young people has also helped to monitor the trends in complaints.

The way children and young people are treated by agency staff, access to services and problems with communication or being kept informed have consistently been the most common complaints made by children and young people.

While the improvements are noted, further work to improve agencies’ complaints mechanisms, particularly around the explanation of confidentiality requirements and in the recording of complaints data relating to children and young people, will provide a more robust system for encouraging children and young people to speak up when they have a concern or a complaint about matters that affect them.

In addition to the work promoting child safe organisations, the Commissioner has continued to promote the Are you listening? Guidelines for making complaints systems accessible and responsive to children and young people, to help government agencies and other organisations to improve their services and make their systems more child-friendly through the focus on children and young people seminars.

Staff from the Commissioner’s office also assisted the Ombudsman of WA to develop strategies to make the Ombudsman’s service more accessible to children and young people.

Children’s Week 2015

Children's Week is an annual event celebrated in Australia during October. The Commissioner uses this week to highlight issues relating to children and young people and supports other community activities held during this week.

During Children’s Week 2015 over 300 attendees joined the Commissioner and four presenters for a free public seminar on bullying and how to support children and young people’s wellbeing. Winthrop Professor Donna Cross, psychologist Eileen Kuruckchi and Year 10 students Sam and Niamh presented their learnings on bullying behaviour and strategies for families.

Feedback from the 154 attendees who completed feedback forms was extremely positive.

The Commissioner also provided support to Meerilinga in various Children’s Week activities, including supporting and attending the Children’s Week Awards. The Commissioner’s Choice Art Award was won by Megan from St Munchin’s Catholic School in Gosnells for her poster, depicting the theme of a child’s ‘right to discover’.

Commissioner for Children and Young People Participate Award

The Commissioner has sponsored the Participate Award, part of the WA Youth Awards program, since 2010.

The Award recognises a young person aged 12 to 17 years who has shown outstanding dedication to make a positive change in their community, and who has inspired other young people to get involved.

Emily Hardbottle was the recipient of the 2015 Commissioner for Children and Young People Participate Award.

Fifteen year-old Emily, from Santa Maria College, has displayed unwavering compassion and selflessness in her work to make a positive change in her community and to give young carers a voice.

As a carer for her younger sister Lauren who has spina bifida, Emily has dedicated herself to improving the lives of children with disability to create a more inclusive society, playing an instrumental role in the set-up of a new wheelchair basketball program in Melville.

The Commissioner also acknowledged the achievements of the three Participate Award finalists Danikka Calyon, Aaron Johnston and Shannieka Martino.

Good Outcomes Awards

The Mental Health Commission’s Good Outcomes Awards celebrate individuals, groups and organisations across the government, private and community sectors that have made an outstanding contribution to mental health. Since 2011, the Commissioner has sponsored the Award for Improved Outcomes in Child and Youth Mental Health.

Street Connect, run by Anglicare WA, was the 2015 recipient of the award. Street Connect is a street-based outreach service that assists highly marginalised, vulnerable and often homeless young people, many of whom experience mental ill health. As well as providing mobile youth-friendly resources and information, Street Connect is involved in conducting emergency interventions and has developed collaborative relationships with hospitals, police, city rangers and local non-government services to produce strategies to reduce the severity of young people’s mental illness.

Local Government Report Card Project Awards

The annual Local Government Report Card Project Awards are sponsored by the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA (PHAIWA), Healthway and the WA Local Government Association with the aim of promoting and celebrating local governments that demonstrate outstanding commitment to building and maintaining environments that support the health of children and young people.

Sponsorship of the Children’s Consultation award enables the Commissioner to recognise and promote high-quality consultation activities involving children and young people, and the benefits these create for children, young people and communities.

The City of Melville was the recipient of the 2015 Children’s Consultation Category. The City of Melville was outstanding in its demonstration of ongoing consultation with children and young people.

Home Is Where My Heart Is

The Home Is Where My Heart Is program was established in 2008 and has been supported by the Commissioner for Children and Young People since 2011.

The program, coordinated by the Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia (YACWA), provides young people who have experienced homelessness with an opportunity to express themselves and have their views heard in the community via a public photographic exhibition.

In 2015, the exhibition was held in August with approximately 450 people attending. As part of his support for the program, the Commissioner hosts a morning tea to speak to participating young people about their experiences and views on homelessness.

The photographs and views of previous young participants from this annual program are on display in the Commissioner’s office.

New online presence

The Commissioner launched a new website in early 2016 that provides improved accessibility and functionality for users and a dedicated section for children and young people.

This information for children and young people section of the website has publications, videos and stories about what children and young people in WA have been saying about important issues that affect them, and how the Commissioner has responded. This online space also presents young people with opportunities to participate in consultations and to share comments and feedback with the Commissioner.

Another key feature of the new website is Spotlight, where profiles of WA children and young people who are contributing positively to their communities are featured.

As well as meeting Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA, the website provides users with improved access to the office’s key information and resources listed under key issues and topics relating to children and young people’s wellbeing, such as mental health, early childhood, youth justice and social media.


Case study

This Is Me 

“Kids also need to know when to ask for help. If you go through life refusing support then you’re not going to get very far. ” Jay, 17 years old

One of the themes to arise in the Commissioner’s consultation with more than 1,200 Aboriginal children and young people from across the state was that having good role models and people who they can look up to is important and helps them succeed with education and other aspects of their lives.

While these role models commonly include sports stars, community leaders and other well-known identities, often it is local young people themselves who are the more relevant and accessible role models.

The Commissioner responded to these views by creating a publication that allows Aboriginal children and young people to hear about other WA children and young people who are working hard to make a positive impact within their families and communities.

The publication, This Is Me profiles 12 inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people who participated in the Commissioner’s original consultation project.

Each young person profiled spoke honestly and openly about their lives, the obstacles they have had to overcome and their goals for the future.

One of these profiles was published in the children’s ED section of The West Australian and copies of This Is Me were sent to all Western Australian schools through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs’ reconciliation program PALS, together with a teaching resource containing a range of reconciliation-focussed activities.

Feedback provided to the Commissioner’s office indicates that the publication is a valuable reading and teaching resource for students of varying ages and backgrounds.

Due to the positive response to this collation of profiles, the initiative was continued for the Commissioner’s consultation with culturally diverse children and young people.

A second This Is Me was produced containing the stories of 15 children and young people from diverse backgrounds, providing fresh insights into the challenges some children and young people face, their resilience and their belief in a bright future.   

“My advice to other kids is to keep challenging yourself. Don’t doubt yourself too much – everyone has to go through tough times to get where they need to.” Poster, 17 years old