Promoting the rights, voices and contributions of children and young people
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
In July 2020, the Commissioner published a compilation of some of the hundreds of responses received from children and young people in the first half of 2020 on how their day-to-day lives were being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and what supports were assisting them.
The publication was sent to all members of the WA Parliament and other organisations to ensure decision makers considered the voice of children and young people in their planning for recovery.
The Commissioner used the children and young people’s views to create several resources to assist parents, carers and both government and non-government organisations in supporting children and young people.
The planning of community places and spaces is often done by adults, however, these decisions greatly affect the lives of children and young people.
Findings from the Speaking Out Survey 2019 indicated that children and young people continue to be concerned about their living environment and have innovative solutions for ways their local communities can be improved.
In June 2021, over 100 Year 9 and 10 students from 14 schools across Perth and members of the Merredin Advisory Committee participated in a planning workshop organised by the Commissioner to give young people a voice in shaping their community.
Young people heard from experts about good community design and how it can impact their health, wellbeing and the environment. They shared the positives and negatives of their local community and explored how their community could be better designed to meet their everyday needs. In their school groups, students mapped out what they and other people need to make a great neighbourhood.
During the year, the Commissioner also captured young people’s views in a statewide artwork consultation, asking Year 6 students to share what they like and dislike about their local environment, or how it could change for the better. The Commissioner received 299 student artworks from schools across WA.
The event and artwork consultation built on the Commissioner’s previous living environment work, which included a discussion paper and a research paper by Dr Carmen Lawrence on the effects of physical and social environments on the health and wellbeing of children and young people.
The Commissioner will use the young people’s insights to continue to advocate for organisations and governments to involve children and young people in decision making.
Encouraging greater participation of children and young people in decision making
New Participation Guidelines to assist organisations to listen to and involve children and young people in decision making were released by the Commissioner in early 2021.
The steps in the guidelines are based on best practice as well as the voices and experiences of WA’s children and young people. The guidelines provide practical advice for organisations on how to plan the meaningful involvement of children and be clear about communication, consent, recognising contributions, following up, and paying attention to feedback.
The Participation Guidelines have been distributed across government and non-government organisations and are available online. They are designed to be used in conjunction with the Commissioner’s Child Safe Organisations WA resources and Child Impact Assessment Guidelines.
The Child Impact Assessment Guidelines, published in July 2020, outline how individual organisations can evaluate the impacts of any proposed legislation, policy or strategy on the rights, interests and wellbeing of children and young people. Included in the Child Impact Assessment Guidelines is a self-assessment template, designed to assist organisations in undertaking their own child impact assessments.
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 office.
The Merredin College and Millennium Kids Advisory Committees were formed to contribute to Commissioner’s work on the impacts of the living environment on the wellbeing of children and young people in WA. Due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the meetings and activities of the committees were scaled back, and each committee met three times in 2020.
Students from the Merredin College Advisory Committee participated in the Commissioner’s living environment event in June 2021, where they explored how their community could be better designed to meet the needs of children and young people.
The Commissioner regularly visits regional and remote areas of WA to hear from children and young people, as well as their families and those who work to support their wellbeing.
The Speaking Out Survey involved extensive regional travel in the first half of 2021 and the Commissioner visited the Kimberley, Mid West and South West regions.
DigiMe and Change Champions
DigiMe, an online avatar creator, was developed by the Commissioner to provide WA children and young people with a way to share their views and have them published on his website and social media.
More than 3,200 DigiMe contributions were received throughout the year from children and young people on topics such as what they like and dislike about their community, how adults involve children in making decisions and what can adults learn from children.
In January 2021, the Commissioner launched Change Champions, a new group of WA children and young people who are interested in sharing their views, insights and recommendations on important issues. The Commissioner sought their views on whether they think female and males are treated equally in WA, and if they feel connected to other people in their local area.
Children’s Week 2020
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.
Several young people from Kensington PCYC and Aranmore College participated in short videos highlighting the rights of children and young people and what they see as the benefits of growing up in WA.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the My Place in WA event planned for Children’s Week was postponed until June 2021.
The Commissioner sponsors several awards that celebrate organisations and individuals making a difference in the lives of WA children and young people.
WA Youth Awards
Since 2010, the Commissioner has sponsored the Participate Award, part of the WA Youth Awards program.
The Participate Award recognises a young person aged 12 to 17 years who has shown outstanding dedication to making a positive change in their community, and who has inspired other young people to get involved.
This year’s recipient, Fatima Merchant, was acknowledged for advocating for, and then developing, a digital student wellbeing program to support the mental health needs of her peers.
Fatima is also a member of UN Youth Australia, and has previously been a WA Youth Parliamentarian, a Mental Health Ambassador for WA Charity Zero2Hero and a member of the Youth Steering Committee for 'Prevent Support Heal'.
Children's Environment and Health Local Government Policy Award
Coordinated by the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA, the Local Government Policy Awards recognise local governments that demonstrate commitment to building and maintaining environments that support the health of children. The Commissioner sponsors two awards. This year the City of Kalamunda was winner of the Children's Consultation Award and the Young People Making a Difference Award winner was the City of Bunbury.
Mentally Healthy Education Award
The Commissioner's Mentally Healthy Education Award is part of the WA Mental Health Awards, hosted by the WA Association for Mental Health with the support of the Mental Health Commission. The award recognises education institutions such as WA primary and high schools that encourage good mental health for their students, staff and volunteers. North Albany Senior High School and Ocean Road Primary School were joint winners of the 2020 award.
Your Call Film Competition
Run by the Constable Care Child Safety Foundation, the Your Call Student Film Competition asks students aged 12 to 18 years to create short films that raise awareness of important public safety issues for WA young people. The Commissioner sponsors the Student Choice Award and the award-winning film this year was Prefect, which was made by students from Ellenbrook Christian College.
Information about each of these awards is available on the Commissioner's website.