Promoting the rights, voices and contributions of children and young people
Being aware of, understanding and acting to uphold the human rights of children and young people are fundamental to recognising and supporting children and young people as valued citizens of the community.
Major achievements in 2017-18
Engaging with Aboriginal Children and Young People Toolkit
This year the Commissioner launched the Engaging with Aboriginal Children and Young People Toolkit which outlines a process for establishing a long-term, sustainable commitment to working with Aboriginal children and young people and their communities.
In 2014 the Commissioner consulted 1,271 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people across Western Australia 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. A report of this consultation, Listen To Us, was tabled in the Western Australian Parliament in August 2015.
To address the gaps identified by young people in the consultation, the Commissioner has initiated several projects which aim to increase the opportunities for Aboriginal children and young people to have a say and to see their culture and strengths reflected in the community.
The toolkit is designed to support Aboriginal children and young people by increasing opportunities for them to participate in decision making about programs and initiatives that affect them. The processes utilised by the toolkit are evidence-based and embedded in culturally secure practice.
The Commissioner consulted staff of key agencies concerning the purpose and structure of the resource and this information was used to develop the toolkit. The toolkit is a dynamic online resource which will continue to be updated with relevant case studies demonstrating the theory of the toolkit in practice. Since its launch in February 2018, the online toolkit has been viewed 1,165 times and the printable version has been downloaded 342 times.
In 2017–18 the Commissioner launched the Aboriginal Leadership Cross-Cultural Solutions program working with twelve Year 11 students. The program develops their leadership and public speaking skills and provides a platform for them to share their views about the gaps and solutions in their communities with local and state level stakeholders.
The program works across mainstream and Aboriginal cultures to bring young people together with a common goal of making their community a better place to live for children and young people. It also addresses issues such as racism, lack of diversity in decision making, and building awareness and engagement with Aboriginal knowledge and leadership.
The Commissioner is developing a publication highlighting the stories of recognised and emerging Aboriginal leaders from a variety of backgrounds and professions. The publication aims to inspire young people in their future pathways and highlight the strength, capacity and diversity of Aboriginal leadership.
“The things I would change would be the attitude towards my people by educating them better about my culture, language, traditions. This is because most people around here and [those] I go to school with assume rather than look at fact. They only look at the bad parts of our culture, such as crime rates, rather than good things, such as our traditions, cultures, athletes...” 14 year-old Yamatji person, Perth
“My culture is who I am, it is a part of everything I do. It connects me to my family and makes me unique...” 17 year-old Jabirr Jabirr young person, Kimberley
"The Lore takes care of my family and home. When I grow up I will do lore like my brothers and my father."
"My life at 10 is all about my family, my land and my education."
Statement of Commitment to Western Australia’s Children and Young People
The Commissioner is committed to promoting the rights of children and young people, who all have the right to be safe, healthy, happy and learning.
Everyone has a responsibility, including family, carers, the broader community and children and young people, to work together to deliver these rights.
The Commissioner has worked closely with the Ambassadors to develop a Statement of Commitment to Western Australia’s Children and Young People. The statement contains nine rights which sit across three domains of wellbeing – safe and supported, learning and participating, and healthy and connected.
Based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and informed by conversations with Western Australian children and young people, the statement can be used to share and talk about children’s rights and to guide the community to uphold all children and young people’s rights. It also formalises the Commissioner’s obligation to monitor and promote the rights of children and young people in Western Australia.
The statement will be launched in Children’s Week in October 2018.
The Commissioner’s Advisory Committees provide children and young people with the opportunity to have their views heard by the Commissioner and his staff and contribute key projects.
The Commissioner’s two 2017 Advisory Committees were appointed to assist the Commissioner’s focus on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people through social media and technology, which involved the Commissioner’s 2016–17 Thinker in Residence, mental health researcher Professor Jane Burns.
Both committees undertook activities to seek the views of their peers about what they think the biggest mental health issues are for young people in their community and the barriers they experience in using services.
The committees came up with a range of solutions to address mental health issues and barriers, as well as technological solutions. These ideas were developed into an app wireframe by a Telethon Kids Institute researcher.
- North Metropolitan Advisory Committee was a group of 16 young people aged 13 to 17 years from Girrawheen Senior High School, Sacred Heart College and Balga Senior High School in Perth.
- Geraldton Advisory Committee comprised a group of young people aged 13 to 17 years from Geraldton Senior College, John Willcock College, Nagle Catholic College and Strathalbyn Christian College.
The reports from both of these committees and summary videos of their work are available on the Commissioner’s website.
The Commissioner appointed two Advisory Committees for 2018 to inform the office’s work on the wellbeing needs and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex (LGBTI) children and young people.
The 2018 committees are:
- Perth LGBTI Advisory Committee – a group of 17 young people from metropolitan Perth aged 16 to 20 years.
- Bunbury Senior High School Advisory Committee – a group of 18 young people between Year 8 and Year 12 who are members of their school’s Diversity Group.
The committees have identified a range of issues affecting LGBTI children and young people in Western Australia including: the importance of creating inclusive schools and communities for LGBTI children and young people; the need to ensure LGBTI people are protected from bullying and discrimination; the importance of community understanding and awareness, particularly around trans and gender diverse children and young people; and ensuring that children and young people have access to the supports that they need.
To address these issues, the committees will be facilitating seminars for teachers, parents and students in Bunbury and Perth on understanding and supporting LGBTI students; developing a video resource for schools; and working with organisations to ensure that children and young people have access to LGBTI events and activities in Western Australia.
The Commissioner regularly visits regional and remote areas of Western Australia 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 areas of the State.
In 2017–18 the Commissioner undertook several regional visits that included the towns and communities of Newman, Meekatharra, Cue, Mount Magnet, Moora, Mullewa and Mandurah.
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.
The Commissioner also visited New Zealand in September 2017 and met with organisations involved in the welfare and advancement of children and young people, including New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft.
During the year the Commissioner developed and launched DigiMe, an online application that encourages Western Australian children and young people to create their cartoon-like digital image and make comment on an important topic.
DigiMe was created to provide children and young people with a fun way to have a say and have their views promoted in the community, which is an important function of the Commissioner’s office.
The Commissioner promotes the young people’s contributions on the office’s website and social media.
DigiMe was developed with the help of over 100 children and young people who provided input about how DigiMe works, what encourages them to make comment and what makes the system safe.
Since launching DigiMe, the Commissioner has received over 600 contributions from children and young people.
Children’s Week 2017
Children’s Week is a national celebration of children’s rights, talents and citizenship, which is celebrated in Australia around Universal Children’s Day in late October.
The Commissioner takes part in community celebrations during this week and also hosts initiatives to highlight issues relating to children and young people and their wellbeing.
In 2017 the Commissioner launched DigiMe at the Meerilinga’s Family Fun Day at Whiteman Park, with 70 children and young people being the first in Western Australia to create their DigiMe.
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 making a positive change in their community and has inspired other young people to get involved.
The 2017 recipient of the Commissioner for Children and Young People Participate Award was Vincent Pettinicchio, a Year 7 student who is on a mission to improve the quality of life of homeless people in Western Australia.
In 2013, at just seven years of age, Vincent was bullied at school. To help Vincent with the situation, his mum told him to think of doing something nice for someone else.
Vincent’s idea was to provide homeless people with packs of toiletries and comfort items, inspired by the homeless people he saw on his walks with his grandparents.
In 2014 Vincent’s Project for the Homeless was born. In his first year, Vincent delivered 364 packs to St Vincent de Paul. By 2016, more than 200 people came to help him pack, including more than 150 students from 10 different schools, and more than 1,000 packs were delivered as far as Paraburdoo, Northam and many locations around Perth.
It is estimated that his packs have helped around 4,000 people and his 10-year plan is to help 14,000 people.
Local Government Policy Awards
The annual Local Government Policy Awards are coordinated by the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA, 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.
The Commissioner sponsors the Children’s Consultation award which recognises and promotes high-quality consultation activities involving children and young people, and the benefits these create for children, young people and communities.
The Shire of Kalamunda was the 2017 Children’s Consultation award recipient. The Shire engaged 450 local children and young people through face-to-face activities, online surveys and targeted feedback strategies to inform their Youth Plan, achieving results for the whole community.
The Shire of August-Margaret River also received a commendation for coordinating a range of innovative and interactive activities to ensure children and young people were heard and their views used to help inform their planning processes.
School and Learning Consultation
In 2017–18 the Commissioner completed the School and Learning Consultation which explored the factors that influence a student’s level of engagement in school and the complex interplay these factors have on each other and a student’s overall engagement.
For the research, the Commissioner’s office consulted 1,812 students from 98 primary and secondary schools around the State and from all three educational sectors in a range of surveys and workshops.
Two reports were tabled in the Western Australian Parliament in January 2018:
- Speaking Out About School and Learning – The views of WA children and young people on factors that support their engagement in school and learning
- School and Learning Consultation – Technical Report
Overwhelmingly students said that having teachers who were interested in their wellbeing, friends and positive relationships with other students, and families that were involved and interested in their education were the foundation to staying engaged at school.
“Friends help you feel accepted and also make the environment feel safer and more enjoyable/ comfortable.”
Secondary to these were having a positive and supportive classroom environment, interesting and relevant lessons, a say in decisions that affect them, feeling safe, having help to overcome issues and being mentally and physically well.
The research found that Western Australian schools were meeting the needs of most children and young people most of the time; however, Aboriginal students, students with long-term health issues or disability and male students in regional areas all needed greater support to stay engaged at school.
While most students recognised the value of their education, understood the importance of regular attendance, liked their school and felt part of their school community, 1 in 10 primary school students and 1 in 5 high school students indicated that they do not always feel safe in school, due to being concerned someone would hurt them or bully them.
To provide an opportunity for educators and parents to learn more about the findings and recommendations from the consultation, the Commissioner and his staff gave many speeches and seminars across Perth.
A brochure for parents and carers was also relevant lessons, a say in decisions that affect them, feeling safe, having help to overcome issues and being mentally and physically well.
“When you learn something new – it’s like a new world or a new door to open.”