From the Commissioner
This past year has been challenging for us all in many different ways, however I have been impressed with the high level of insight, resilience and gratitude that children and young people have shared with me.
Now more than ever in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to prioritise the wellbeing of our children and young people, particularly those who are vulnerable.
In February, I published the findings of my inaugural Speaking Out Survey, the most comprehensive survey of children and young people on their health and wellbeing ever undertaken in WA.
Almost 5,000 children and young people from across the State shared their views on topics such as safety, mental health, education, connections to community and how they access support. Most children and young people reported they feel healthy, have the material things they need and that they like school. However, mental health, perceptions of safety and feeling connected are areas of concern.
The survey will be conducted again in 2021, and given the timing, will provide an important comparison of children and young people’s wellbeing before and after the COVID-19 pandemic period. This data will be valuable in monitoring wellbeing for the longer term and ensuring that governments, communities and families can address the impacts.
My Indicators of Wellbeing online data resource provides a single place for information from a variety of sources on WA children and young people’s wellbeing and can be used by government and non- government services to consider and plan for the needs of children and young people. This year, the data has been expanded to include young people’s physical and mental health, engagement in healthy behaviours, connection to culture and community, supportive relationships, safety and access to basic material needs.
Supporting the implementation of child safe principles in organisations to help ensure children are safe from all types of harm while in their care continues to be a strong focus of my office. In November, I released updated National Principles for Child Safe Organisations WA resources, including best practice guidelines for organisations and information for parents and carers.
While most WA children and young people are faring well, too many continue to experience significant poverty and disadvantage. There are clear links between child poverty and youth suicide rates, disengagement from school, and longer-term physical and mental health issues, indicating that many children and young people are falling through the cracks. In my 2019 Improving the odds for WA’s vulnerable children and young people report, I outlined clear recommendations for government and actions my office will undertake to improve outcomes.
I am pleased progress is being made on these recommendations. I am currently working with government to develop a statewide Child Wellbeing Strategy with clear long-term targets and timelines to improve children and young people’s wellbeing. My office also developed guidelines that can be used by organisations to assess the impact of any proposed legislation, policy or strategy on the rights, interests and wellbeing of children and young people. I will work with government to ensure agencies use the guidelines in their decision making.
As the COVID-19 pandemic events unfolded globally earlier this year and started impacting our community, I issued an open invitation for WA children and young people to write in anonymously to share their views on how they were feeling and what supports were helping them. I received more than 800 responses which helped my office to understand their experiences and to shape several resources for parents and carers on how best to support them, and inform governments and community in planning WA’s recovery.
As always, the highlight of my role is talking to and hearing from children and young people. I was privileged to be able to meet with young people from Northam, Merredin, Southern Cross, Jigalong and across Perth this year.
Thank you to each and every young person who took the time to share their thoughts and contribute to the work of my office. Finally, thank you to the Ambassadors for Children and Young People, the many community and service providers and my office’s dedicated team for their strong commitment to improving the lives of all WA children and young people.
Commissioner for Children and Young People WA