In the past 12 months, I have continued to focus on driving change and improving the way we address the challenges facing our vulnerable children and young people.
The health and wellbeing of all WA children and young people is my utmost priority. While the majority of our young people are thriving, there are too many who continue to experience significant adversity and disadvantage.
Throughout 2018 I hosted the Vulnerability Speaker Series which brought together government, service providers, practitioners and community leaders to share information and devise improved strategies to address vulnerability in WA children and young people. The Speaker Series also included a seminar and roundtable to explore Aboriginal-led initiatives and the importance of supporting Aboriginal leadership to help address the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people experiencing poorer outcomes.
The recent State Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of thirteen children and young people in the Kimberley Region and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse both demonstrate that despite the significant work and good intentions of governments and communities there is urgent need for a new approach to our most vulnerable children and young people.
What I found encouraging throughout the Series was the strong interest from government and non-government leaders to hearing the views of children and young people, improving how we work together and a commitment to reducing vulnerability.
In May this year, I tabled in State Parliament the Improving the odds for WA’s vulnerable children and young people report which collates the findings from the Series. This report contains five key recommendations to government on a way forward to more sustainably address vulnerability in WA, including the establishment of a statewide Child Wellbeing Strategy. I have provided this report to all Members of Parliament and urged them to act upon the recommendations. In the coming year, I will continue to work with agencies and monitor the progress towards reducing the number of WA children and young people experiencing vulnerability.
Talking to children and young people across the state is always the highlight of my year and this year was no exception. I had the privilege of visiting remote and regional communities as far north as the Kimberley and down to the South West, as well as Perth, to talk with children and young people about what is important to them and the challenges they face.
Young people themselves know better than anyone about the issues impacting their lives. To further understand what is and isn’t working well for WA children and young people, this year my office started work on its largest consultation to date – the Speaking Out Survey.
On completion, we will have surveyed over 4,500 students from approximately 200 primary and secondary schools across all regions of WA. The survey has given students an opportunity to anonymously share their views on a range of topics central to their health and wellbeing such as safety, mental health, engagement in education, connection to community, poverty and how they access sources of support.
My office will be working with Telethon Kids Institute on the data analysis and I look forward to sharing the findings in early 2020. Importantly, the data from the survey will be used by government and other organisations working with children and young people to help them shape policy, programs and services to better meet their needs.
Another key initiative this year has been the development of my Indicators of Wellbeing online data resource. The Indicators of Wellbeing is a compilation of data from a variety of sources on measures related to WA’s children and young people’s wellbeing. With the data in a single online location, it is a valuable resource for organisations involved in policy making and service delivery for young people.
Thank you to all the children and young people and the many communities and service providers who have contributed to the work of my office throughout the year.
Finally, thank you to the Ambassadors for Children and Young People and the small, dedicated team at my office for their ongoing support and strong commitment to improving the lives of all WA children and young people.
Commissioner for Children and Young People
Face to Face provides an annual report specifically for children and young people on how their views have influenced the Commissioner's work over the past year.