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From the Commissioner

Since my appointment I have met many inspiring children and young people who want to participate in decisions that shape their wellbeing and future. It is a privilege to witness firsthand the maturity and insightfulness of our youth. Their concerns are broad reaching, community based and go far beyond the individual. It gives me great hope for the future.

The legislation governing the work of the Commissioner states that particular attention must be paid to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, and those from other vulnerable groups. To this end, a significant focus has been visiting Aboriginal children and young people in the metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas of WA.

In my first six months in the role, I have undertaken consultation with children and young people across the state, including visits to schools and other services and organisations where children and young people gather. I have met with children and young people with lived experience of out-of-home care and juvenile detention, those who are gender and/or sexuality diverse, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and those with disability.

These visits are part of my Listening Tour and they ensure that we hear directly from children and young people about the things that matter to them.

I have also met with ministers, departmental directors-general and the Joint Standing Committee for the Commissioner for Children and Young People to gain a greater understanding of government priorities and focus areas and how they affect young people aged 0 to 17 in Western Australia.

I met with, and continue to engage with, our Ambassadors who provide valuable guidance and support for the work of the office. I thank them for their expertise and ongoing commitment to the wellbeing of Western Australian children and their families.

My office will continue to advocate for a different approach to working with children and their families so that they achieve improved life outcomes. This includes much earlier responses and intervention to prevent children and young people from disengaging from education and becoming involved in the youth legal system, and better supporting families so that children do not enter the child protection system.

In 2021–22 my team has diligently continued to review the data from the 2021 Speaking Out Survey and prepared reports that provide an in-depth view into the lives of our children and young people in WA. Detailed analysis is continuing. I encourage all service providers – government, non-government and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations – to read these valuable reports on our website.

In late 2021 we finalised a review of the complaints processes across government agencies and departments, which demonstrated that we still have significant work to do to ensure that all agencies have a child friendly complaints system. Our team will continue to work with identified organisations to improve in this area.

I firmly believe that we need to do things differently to better support the most vulnerable members of our community.

I strongly advocate for a holistic, whole-of-government child and family wellbeing strategy that is focused on the earliest possible provision of services – from pre-birth and across the life span to adulthood. In order to reduce disadvantage and poverty, and improve life outcomes, we must all come together on this critical path.

I would like to acknowledge the outgoing Commissioner, Dr Colin Pettit, for his extensive work over six years in the role. Dr Pettit was instrumental in seeing the Speaking Out Survey come to life. Since 2019 the survey has given a voice to over 20,000 children and young people in Western Australia. Dr Pettit advocated passionately for improving the lives of children and young people and was committed to listening to their views.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the exceptional work of the team in my office – their passion, compassion, empathy and commitment are second to none. They have given me tremendous support since I commenced and have demonstrated their dedication to improving the lives of all children and young people throughout Western Australia.

Jacqueline McGowan-Jones
Commissioner for Children and Young People
Western Australia

Explore the 2021-22 Annual Report