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 2018−19
Key project: Speaking Out Survey
More than 4,500 school students from across WA have taken part in the state’s first Speaking Out Survey.
This survey, the largest consultation undertaken by the Commissioner’s office to date, captures the views of students from Years 4 to 12 on important topics such as their health, safety, connection to community and how they access sources of support.
The Commissioner designed the Speaking Out Survey to provide important data to monitor the wellbeing of children and young people.
Approximately 200 primary and secondary schools were randomly selected to ensure students from all regions of Western Australia were consulted. Both government and non-government schools were involved.
Survey fieldwork was conducted by the Commissioner’s staff in schools between March and August 2019.
Telethon Kids Institute will complete the survey data analysis in late 2019, with the findings published in early 2020.
The survey will provide valuable data for organisations working with children and young people, and help them shape policy and programs to meet the needs of children and young people.
The Speaking Out Survey is jointly funded by the Departments of Communities, Education, Health and Justice.
Statement of Commitment to Western Australia’s Children and Young People
In 2018, the Commissioner’s office worked with the Ambassadors and children and young people to develop a Statement of Commitment to promote the understanding of children’s rights in WA.
Commissioner’s staff worked closely with students from local primary and secondary schools to translate the rights into child-friendly language. Children and young people were also involved in the production of a short video which has been viewed over 5,000 times on the Commissioner’s social media channels. The video, along with a range of other resources, is also being used widely by schools and other organisations that work with young people.
The Statement contains nine fundamental rights of children and young people which sit across three domains of wellbeing: safe and supported, learning and participating, and healthy and connected.
The Statement was formally launched during Children’s Week in October 2018. The launch was followed by an opening address in November to the Parliamentary Friends of Children, an event convened by members of the WA Parliament, and attended by the Minister for Child Protection, members of the Joint Standing Committee and the Ambassadors for Children and Young People.
Work continues with the School Curriculum and Standards Authority to embed the Statement of Commitment into the WA curriculum.
The Western Australian Adoption Act 1994 was reviewed in 2018 and 31 changes to the Act were recommended. The Commissioner invited young people with experience of adoption to have a say on the proposed changes, which was the first time young people have been directly consulted on this Act.
The Commissioner published the young people’s views along with his recommendations in the Speaking Out About Adoption report, which was provided to the Department of Communities and Minister for Child Protection.
Based on the views of the young people consulted, the Commissioner made recommendations to strengthen the rights of children and young people within the Act and across adoption process in WA. Several young people who took part in the consultation met with Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk MLA to discuss their views.
Family separation and family law
In late 2018 the Commissioner invited children and young people with experience of family separation to share their views as part of the national review of the family law system.
Children and young people were able to participate anonymously by interview or making a written submission.
The key issues WA young people highlighted the importance of:
- ongoing, open and respectful communication with parents during and after separation
- being listened to by parents and service providers
- being treated fairly and as a person of value in their own right
- professionals who had a good rapport with children, were respectful, competent and capable of taking action.
The Commissioner published his recommendations and the views of young people in the Speaking Out About Family Separation report. The report was submitted to the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Family Court of Western Australia.
The Commissioner will monitor the Australian Law Reform Commission’s findings and the implementation of their recommendations within WA.
Aboriginal Leadership Cross-Cultural Solutions program
The Commissioner's Aboriginal Leadership Cross-Cultural Solutions program focused on recognising and building the leadership capacity of Aboriginal children and young people along with their peers in three schools from across WA: Karratha Senior High School, Girrawheen Senior High School and Narrogin Senior High School.
During the year, a mix of four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal students from each school participated in a three-session leadership development program, including a three-day camp in August 2018.
The program gave the students increased confidence and understanding that young people, especially Aboriginal children and young people, can participate in decision making in their community.
Students had the opportunity to meet with business and community leaders, including the Governor of Western Australia, the Honourable Kim Beazley AC, and presented at the Commissioner’s Vulnerability Speaker Series events. They also explored the issues in their respective communities and presented to local decision makers about what actions and positive changes they would like to see in their communities.
The Commissioner’s advisory committees provide children and young people with the opportunity to have their views heard and contribute directly to the work of the Commissioner.
In 2018 the Commissioner formed two advisory committees 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 committees were:
- Perth LGBTI Advisory Committee - a group of 17 young people from across the metropolitan area 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.
Throughout 2018, the Commissioner's advisory committees were very active and focused on addressing several high priority issues facing LGBTI children and young people.
The committees played an important role in the Commissioner’s advocacy and submissions on legal recognition, discrimination and wellbeing outcomes for LGBTI children and young people; they facilitated seminars for teachers, parents and students in Bunbury and Perth; and they spoke with stakeholders about the need for LGBTI youth events and spaces.
The committees created four video resources for schools and organisations working with children and young people, to raise awareness of LGBTI diversity and of strategies to create safe, inclusive environments for LGBTI children and young people.
DigiMe, an online avatar creator, was developed by the Commissioner in 2017 to provide children and young people with another way to share their views and have them published on his website and social media.
In 2018–19, the Commissioner received over 1,100 contributions from children and young people through DigiMe, who responded to questions such as: How can organisations help young people to make complaints? What does a child’s right to a healthy life mean? and What is the most important thing in your life?
Children’s Week 2018
Children’s Week is a national celebration of children’s rights, talents and citizenship, which is observed in Australia around Universal Children's Day in late October.
In 2018 the Commissioner celebrated Children’s Week by releasing the Statement of Commitment to Western Australia’s children and young people which draws on both the UN Convention and the views of WA children. He also took part in community events to celebrate the contributions of children and young people.
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 2018 recipient of the award was 12 year-old Scott Guerini from the WA Wheatbelt.
After learning about helping others during a lesson in Kindy, 4 year-old Scott decided he needed to do something to help sick kids and babies.
Scott has since walked almost 500 km in the past nine years, and at the age of 12 and has raised over $145,000 for Telethon.
He now speaks at schools, clubs and corporate events, talking about dealing with pressure and the importance of talking to someone to when you’re not feeling great. He has also written and published a book called Did you know, you can change the world? and has sold over 1,000 copies with proceeds going to Telethon.
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 City of Albany won the 2018 Children’s Consultation award for its innovative and creative consultation methods to involve young people in developing its Youth Friendly Albany Strategy (2017–2025), including the Albany Youth Advisory Council, online and face-to-face forums.
The City of Rockingham also received a commendation for the development of their Strategy for Children and Young People, which demonstrates strong forward planning for consultation with children and young people in their area.