Prioritising the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people
Prioritising the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people
The Commissioner continues to advocate for changes to the WA youth justice system to improve the opportunities and outcomes for young people in the system and their families.
In November, the Commissioner attended a key stakeholder meeting with the then-Premier of WA Mark McGowan MLA which was convened to discuss youth justice issues. The Commissioner meets regularly with the Director-General of the Department of Justice and the Commissioner for Corrective Services to discuss matters raised by children and young people in contact with the youth justice system.
The Commissioner visited Banksia Hill Detention Centre six times and visited Unit 18 of Casuarina Prison three times, and engages directly with the children and young people. She has also met with families of those detained.
The Commissioner supported the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services’ announced inspection of both Banksia Hill and Unit 18 at Casuarina Prison in February 2023. A report on this visit was tabled in Parliament in May.
The Commissioner supported Social Reinvestment WA in the development and launch of the Blueprint for a Better Future: Paving the Way for Youth Justice Reform in Western Australia, and fully supports the Blueprint and its implementation.
The ACCG released a joint statement in October reiterating their calls to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years and continues to prioritise youth justice.
Evidence was provided to the Senate Community Affairs Committee’s Poverty in Australia Hearing in April, highlighting the experiences WA children and young people have shared with the Commissioner on the impacts of poverty.
In June the Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People completed their Inquiry into the most effective ways for Western Australia to address food insecurity for children and young people affected by poverty. The Commissioner’s submission to the Inquiry advocated for a nationally-agreed methodology for measuring child poverty, the development of a state-wide child and family wellbeing strategy and the use of child impact assessments.
Improving outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people
The Commissioner and her team worked with seven young Aboriginal women in the Goldfields to provide training as peer researchers so that they can support other children and young people in having a say about issues that affect them.
The Young Aboriginal Researchers in Community (YARiC) project further investigated issues raised about the wellbeing of young women through the Speaking Out Survey 2019 and 2021.
Culturally appropriate training was designed in collaboration with Curtin University and wellbeing support was provided by Better Heart Self Care. Kalgoorlie Follow the Dream (Polly Farmer Foundation) program staff assisted the Commissioner to recruit seven young Aboriginal women aged 12 to 18 who undertook three days of training before they surveyed 54 young people. A report was presented to the Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People and published on the Commissioner’s website.
The Commissioner is a member of the Kimberley Aboriginal Youth Wellbeing Steering Committee which brings together State Government agencies with the Kimberley regional Governance Group to support and enable Aboriginal-led solutions to improve youth wellbeing.
The Commissioner regularly engages with Aboriginal cultural leaders, Elders and communities on a range of topics.
Trans and gender diverse children and young people
Trans and gender diverse children and young people participated in focus groups to discuss issues they face and what they want adults to know about their experiences.
Representatives from TransFolk of WA, Perth Inner City Youth Service, the Freedom Centre and the Youth Pride Network, together with representatives with lived experience of being trans and gender diverse, supported this work.
A report on the key consultation themes will be released in the second half of 2023.
The Commissioner has advocated strongly for improved access to mental health and social and emotional wellbeing services for children and young people in WA. This is a priority given the findings in the 2021 Speaking Out Survey, which demonstrated a significant decline in girls’ wellbeing.
The Commissioner meets regularly with the Mental Health Commissioner.
The Commissioner is a member of the Kimberley Aboriginal Youth Wellbeing Steering Committee.
The Commissioner continues to monitor implementation of the recommendations from the March 2022 Ministerial Taskforce into Public Mental Health Services for Infants, Children and Adolescents aged 0–18 years in Western Australia.
During 2021 and 2022 Lotterywest funding was used to extend the Speaking Out Survey 2021 to children and young people with disability outside of mainstream education. As part of this extension, the Commissioner’s office piloted modified survey questionnaires for the different cohorts, reaching 545 children and young people with hearing or vision impairments, behavioural and engagement challenges, and multiple complex needs.
Two key groups of students participated in this project, with the support of their schools and teachers. Students in the Schools of Special Educational Needs completed the main SOS21 survey, while students participating in education support schools and centres across government and non-government schools completed one of two modified versions of the main survey. A report summarising these findings is in its final stages and is due to be published later this year.
Inaugural Ambassador for First Nations
On 6 June 2023, the Commissioner met with Mr Justin Mohamed, the Australia’s inaugural Ambassador for First Nations who was appointed on the 7 March 2023. The Ambassador has extensive experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, social justice and reconciliation. He leads the government’s efforts to embed Indigenous perspectives and develop a First Nations Foreign Policy Strategy.
The Ambassador heads the Office of First Nations Engagement within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, working in partnership with the National Indigenous
The Ambassador was formerly the Commissioner for Children and Young People in Victoria and was keen to understand the Commissioner’s role and responsibilities in WA. Discussions centred on the lack of a regulatory role for the Commissioner for Children and Young People and the importance of establishing a First Nations Commissioner for Aboriginal children and young people.
Ombudsperson for Children Mauritius
On 22 November 2022, the Commissioner met with the Ombudsperson for Children Mauritius, Mrs Rita Venkatasawmy, to discuss inclusive education opportunities for children with disabilities. Mrs Venkatasawmy aims to conduct an international comparison of good practice in Australia and recommend reforms to the Mauritian Government. She also discussed measures implemented by the Commissioner’s office to support inclusive education in Western Australia, such as the Indicators of Wellbeing and the Wellbeing Monitoring Framework.
Other key discussion items included the lack of regulatory functions for the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA and key issues for children and young people. In addition, there was considerate discussion on First Nations matters and their over representation in out-of-home care and youth justice.
United States Consul General
In August 2022, the Commissioner met informally with Siriana K. Nair, the US Consul General in Perth. With prior diplomatic posts in Indonesia, the Philippines, and India, the Consul General has a wealth of experience regarding the Indo-Pacific region. Prior to her appointment as the American Consul General in Perth, Australia, Ms Nair worked as the Deputy Political Counsellor at the American Mission in Brasilia, Brazil, where she advanced bilateral geopolitical goals during a time of change in Brazil’s foreign policy.
The Commissioner provided an overview of her role and functions, and compared this to similar roles nationally and internationally.