From the Commissioner
Kaya, I am pleased to present the Annual Report on the activities of the Commissioner for Children and Young People Western Australia for 2022-23, showcasing our achievements and challenges in the 2022-23 financial year.
The Parliament of Western Australia established the office of the Commissioner for Children and Young People on 10 December 2007, and I am the fourth person to have the honour of this role. This report covers my first full twelve month period as the Commissioner.
In Western Australia there are around 634,000 children and young people aged 0-17 years. Approximately 105,000 of these children and young people are living in poverty. My office will continue to advocate at the state and national level for action to address poverty in Australia and, importantly, to advocate for a comprehensive child and family wellbeing approach to the design of policy and delivery of services and programs into the future.
In accordance with the functions in the Commissioner for Children and Young People Act 2006, I have ensured we continue to focus on the needs of our most vulnerable children and young people, including Aboriginal children and young people. With the ever-increasing over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the out-of-home care and youth justice systems, it is critical that we work together to ensure full implementation of all actions in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. We must focus on building a structured approach to hearing the voices of children and young people in all matters that affect them.
My office has also developed guidelines and templates to support both government and nongovernment organisations in undertaking child impact assessments when developing policies and programs. I would urge everybody to embed these processes into their organisations.
The foundation for my role is always to listen to children and young people across WA and advocate for their views to be meaningfully considered by community and government decision makers. This report outlines the ways in which their views influence my work in advocating for their rights and improved wellbeing.
During the reporting period, I have continued to undertake extensive consultation with children and young people across Western Australia. A total of 4,512 children and young people have shared their views with me on multiple issues including the environment, their wellbeing, homelessness and housing, youth justice, education, training, and employment.
To celebrate our milestone of 15 years since establishment we worked with 15 inspiring young people who shared how they are making a positive contribution to their community in a publication, Here I Am, which was sent to all WA school libraries.
Valuable insights have been gained through our Youth Advisory Committees, the Young Aboriginal Researchers in Community (YARiC) project, to trans and gender diverse young people who openly expressed their experiences and conveyed important messages to adults about their lives, as well as the numerous young people who have spoken out about vaping. Approximately 100 young people also attended a Forum where we sought their views on matters such as Advocacy as well as providing them with advocacy training. Each of these young people has contributed in a significant way, offering us a deeper understanding of how we can enhance our support for the young people in Western Australia.
I continued regularly to meet with Ministers, departmental Directors-General and the Joint Standing Committee for the Commissioner for Children and Young People to provide them with the valuable feedback I have received throughout the year from our most precious resource – our children and young people. I have continued to engage in national conversations, through forums such as the Australia Children’s Commissioners and Guardians Group and the First Nations Children’s Commissioners and Guardians Caucus, to highlight the needs of Western Australian children and young people.
Furthermore, I have met with international representatives holding similar roles to mine to discuss their progress and challenges and to identify opportunities to improve outcomes for children and young people in WA.
Over the last year youth justice has deservedly been in the spotlight. We have seen the decision to move some young people from Banksia Hill Detention Centre to Unit 18 within Casuarina Prison. There has been unrest in Banksia Hill and considerable public commentary around the wellbeing of young people held in detention.
My position remains unchanged – every decision made about young people in detention, and every response to their behaviour, needs to be
aimed towards rehabilitation.
We need to focus on supporting the wellbeing of future generations to address the factors that lead to young people coming into contact with the justice system.
I have visited both Casuarina Prison’s Unit 18 and Banksia Hill Detention Centre at various points throughout the year and spoken directly to young people about their experiences. I thank the Department of Justice for facilitating these visits and acknowledge the announcement of a new model of care for Banksia Hill.
My office has been through a significant change since I commenced. I thank our current and former team members for their dedication and commitment to children and young people throughout their time with us.
My sincere thanks to every young person who shared their views over the last year – whether that be through a conversation with me at a school or youth service, a survey response or by being part of a focus group or research project. It is always my privilege to hear their perspectives and experiences.
Commissioner for Children and Young People