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Age group 6 to 11 years

Autonomy and voice

Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to give their opinion and be listened to by the adults around them. Giving children a voice and encouraging them to be involved in decisions affecting them contributes to the development of self-esteem and identity. It also enables children to learn how to develop and articulate opinions and make choices which can influence events.

Overview and areas of concern

Last updated May 2020

Some data is available on whether WA children aged 6 to 11 years feel that their autonomy is supported and voice is heard.

Overview

The term ‘participation’ is often used to describe the active involvement of children and young people in being informed, expressing their views, having their views listened to and making decisions.1 For children and young people to be participants, both in their own lives and in the broader community, the acknowledgement and support of adults with whom they have contact is critical.2 When children and young people are supported to participate actively in decisions that affect their lives, their wellbeing improves.3

Nine-in-ten Year 4 to Year 6 students agreed it is either very much true (61.3%) or pretty much true (27.7%) that there is a teacher at their school who listens to them when they have something to say.

Areas of concern

More than one-in-ten Year 4 to Year 6 students reported it was either a little true (11.3%) or not at all true (2.4%) that a parent or other adult at home listens to them when they have something to say.

There is limited data measuring whether WA children feel their autonomy is supported and their voice matters, particularly in their homes and/or wider community.

Endnotes

  1. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2009, Participation Issues paper, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  2. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2011, Speaking Out About Wellbeing: Children and Young People speak out about being acknowledged and involved in decisions, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  3. NSW Commission for Children and Young People 2007, Ask the Children: Overview of Children’s Understandings of Well-being, NSW Commission for Children and Young People, p. 2.
Measure: Autonomy and voice

Last updated May 2020

Experiencing a level of autonomy and having a voice are important developmental aspects for children in all areas of their life including at home and at school. Feeling their independence is supported and that they can participate in making decisions about their lives is critical.

Providing students with the opportunity to have a say in the creation of a learning environment that best suits their needs supports their engagement with school and learning, can result in more effective strategies to address safety and promotes autonomy and responsibility for learning.1

There is limited data on whether WA children feel their autonomy is supported and their voice matters across all areas of their life.

In the 2019 Speaking Out Survey, Year 4 to Year 6 students were asked whether there is a teacher or another adult at their school who listens to them when they have something to say.

Nine-in-ten Year 4 to Year 6 students agreed it is either very much true (61.3%) or pretty much true (27.7%) that there is a teacher at their school who listens to them when they have something to say. However, more than one-in-ten students reported this was only a little true (8.9%) for them or not at all (2.2%).

Proportion of Year 4 to Year 6 students reporting it is very much, pretty much, a little or not at all true that there is a teacher or another adult at their school who listens to them when they have something to say by selected characteristics, per cent, WA, 2019

Male

Female

Metropolitan

Regional

Remote

All

Very much true

59.5

63.5

60.2

66.0

60.6

61.3

Pretty much true

28.3

26.6

28.4

24.0

29.4

27.7

A little true

10.7

7.1

9.2

7.8

7.7

8.9

Not at all true

1.5

2.8

2.2

2.1

2.2

2.2

Source: Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2020, Speaking Out Survey 2019 Data Tables [unpublished]

A higher proportion of regional than remote and metropolitan Year 4 to Year 6 students reported it was very much true that there is a teacher who listens to them when they have something to say (66.0% compared to 60.6% and 60.2%). The difference was not statistically significant, however, it correlates with the findings that regional students are more likely than remote or metropolitan students to report always getting extra help from teachers (refer to Measure: Help with schoolwork ).

According to these results from the Speaking Out Survey, Year 4 to Year 6 students in regional areas are somewhat more likely to feel supported and listened to by their teachers than their counterparts in remote and metropolitan areas.

A higher proportion of Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal Year 4 to Year 6 students reported it was very much true there is a teacher who listens to them when they have something to say (65.2% compared to 61.0%).

Proportion of Year 4 to Year 6 students reporting it is very much, pretty much, a little or not at all true that there is a teacher or another adult at their school who listens to them when they have something to say by Aboriginal status, per cent, WA, 2019

Aboriginal

Non-Aboriginal

Total

Very much true

65.2

61.0

61.3

Pretty much true

20.7

28.2

27.7

A little true

11.3

8.7

8.9

Not at all true

2.8

2.1

2.2

Source: Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2020, Speaking Out Survey 2019 Data Tables [unpublished]

The Commissioner’s 2019 Speaking Out Survey asked participating Year 7 to Year 12 students about whether they are involved in making decisions about their life, which are available under the Autonomy and voice indicator in the 12 to 17 years age group.

National School Opinion Survey

In the 2016 National School Opinion Survey,2 64.0 per cent of participating Year 5 and Year 6 students in government schools either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “my school takes students’ opinions seriously”. Twenty three per cent neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, while 12.0 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

National School Opinion Survey, Proportion of Year 5 and Year 6 government school students saying their school takes students’ opinions seriously, per cent, WA, 2016

Source: National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA [unpublished]

There were minimal differences between male and female students or students in different geographical locations. While a similar proportion of Aboriginal students agreed or strongly agreed with this statement compared to non-Aboriginal students (51.0% compared to 52.0%), a higher proportion of Aboriginal students disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement compared to non-Aboriginal students (23.0% compared to 19.0%).

This finding strongly suggests that schools and their communities should allow for more opportunities for students to have a say in decisions about matters that affect them. Within a school environment, there are multiple opportunities for autonomy at varying levels of control that can be provided to students. Classroom management strategies, learning activities, curriculum content and school organisation are all areas in which students can contribute.

In the 2019 Speaking Out Survey, Year 4 to Year 6 students were also asked whether there is a parent or another adult at home who listens to them.

Proportion of Year 4 to Year 6 students reporting it is very much, pretty much, a little or not at all true that where they live there is a parent or another adult who listens to them when they have something to say by selected characteristics, per cent, WA, 2019

Male

Female

Metropolitan

Regional

Remote

Total

Very much true

52.7

56.9

54.0

56.4

55.6

54.6

Pretty much true

33.0

30.1

33.1

26.9

29.2

31.8

A little true

12.3

10.4

10.6

13.7

13.0

11.3

Not at all true

2.0

2.6

2.2

3.0

2.2

2.4

Source: Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2020, Speaking Out Survey 2019 Data Tables [unpublished]

Almost nine-in-ten Year 4 to Year 6 students agreed it is either very much true (54.6%) or pretty much true (31.8%) that there is a parent or other adult at home who listens to them when they have something to say. However, more than one-in-ten students reported this was only a little true (11.3%) for them or not at all (2.4%).

Aboriginal Year 4 to Year 6 students were more likely than non-Aboriginal students to feel that it is not at all true that there is a parent or other adult at home who listens to them when they have something to say (6.0% compared to 2.1%).3

Endnotes

  1. Commissioner for Children and Young People 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, p. 114.
  2. Results from the National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. All WA government schools are required to administer parent, student and staff National School Opinion Surveys (NSOS) at least every two years, commencing in 2014. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was responsible for the development and implementation of the NSOS. The WA Department of Education and individual schools are also able to add additional questions to the survey. In WA, the first complete (although non-mandatory) implementation of the survey was conducted in government schools in 2016. The next survey was conducted in 2018 and this data will be published when compiled. The data should be interpreted with caution as the survey is relatively new and there is a consequent lack of an agreed baseline for results.
  3. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2020, Speaking Out Survey 2019 Data Tables [unpublished].
Children in care

Last updated May 2020

At 30 June 2019, there were 1,618 WA children in care aged between five and nine years, more than one-half of whom (55.1%) were Aboriginal.1

The National Standards for out-of-home care Standard 2 stipulates that ‘children and young people participate in decisions that have an impact on their lives’.

In WA, children and young people in care are required to have an individualised plan that details their health, education and other needs. In 2018–19, the Department of Communities reported that 86.0 per cent of children in the CEO’s care had comprehensive care planning undertaken within set timeframes.2

To meet National Standard 2, it is critical that children and young people in care are involved in the development and maintenance of their care plan. In 2017, CREATE Foundation asked Australian children and young people in care whether they were aware of having a case plan, overall only 43.6 per cent knew about their case plan.3 Furthermore, of those who knew of their case plan, only 57.1 per cent indicated that they had been involved in its development.4

One of the key mechanisms that the Department of Communities uses to affect care planning is Viewpoint, an interactive software program. Children and young people in care aged between five and 17 years voluntarily complete the survey during the year to record their needs and views about being in care. The Department of Communities 2018–19 Annual Report indicated 1,938 Viewpoint surveys were completed by children and young people in care.5 It should be noted that where the same child or young person completes a survey more than once in the relevant period, all their responses are included in this statistic. In 2018–19, there were a total number of 4,038 children aged five to 17 years in care, therefore the maximum possible participation rate that year was 48 per cent.

Data from the Viewpoint survey is not published other than one effectiveness indicator in the annual report regarding the children and young people’s experiences of feeling safe in their care arrangement.6

No data is publicly available on whether children in care in WA feel they have a say in decisions that impact their lives.

Endnotes

  1. Department of Communities 2019, Annual Report: 2018–19, WA Government p. 26.
  2. Department of Communities 2019, Annual Report: 2018–19, WA Government p. 151.
  3. McDowall JJ 2018, Out-of-home care in Australia: Children and young people’s views after five years of National Standards, CREATE Foundation, p. 52.
  4. McDowall JJ 2018, Out-of-home care in Australia: Children and young people’s views after five years of National Standards, CREATE Foundation, p. 53.
  5. Department of Communities 2019, Annual Report: 2018–19, WA Government p. 29.
  6. The effectiveness indicator publicly reported is the proportion of children and young people in care who felt safe in their care arrangement (96% in 2018-19).
Children with disability

Last updated May 2020

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Disability, Ageing and Carers, 2018 data collection reports that approximately 30,200 WA children and young people (9.2%) aged five to 14 years have reported disability.1,2

People with disability, including children and young people, often experience social exclusion and barriers to meaningful participation in the community.3 There are significant issues and a range of barriers that can discourage, prevent or actively exclude children and young people with disability from participating in decisions that affect their lives. For some, this can be the nature of their support needs, however, more frequently it is a culture of low expectations, lack of opportunity, inaccessible processes and social and cultural barriers.4

All children, regardless of the range of their abilities, must be seen as active and valued participants who have the right to be heard and provided with equitable access to education if Australia is to achieve inclusive and quality education for all.5

No data is available on whether WA children aged 6 to 11 years old with disability feel that their autonomy is supported, and their voice is heard at school or in other areas of life.

More than 300 Year 7 to Year 12 students with disability who attend mainstream classes or programs participated in the Speaking Out Survey 2019. For more information refer to the Autonomy and voice for the 12 to 17 years age group.  

 

Endnotes

  1. The ABS uses the following definition of disability: ‘In the context of health experience, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICFDH) defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions… In this survey, a person has a disability if they report they have a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities.’ Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015, Glossary.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2018, Western Australia, Table 1.1 Persons with disability, by age and sex, estimate, and Table 1.3 Persons with disability, by age and sex, proportion of persons.
  3. National People with Disabilities and Carer Council, SHUT OUT: The Experience of People with Disabilities and their Families in Australia: National Disability Strategy Consultation Report, Commonwealth of Australia.
  4. Simmons C and Robinson S 2014, Strengthening Participation of Children and Young People with Disability in Advocacy, Children with Disability Australia.
  5. Cologan K 2013, Inclusion in Education: towards equality for students with disability, Children and Families Research Centre Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University.
Policy implications

Last updated May 2020

Children and young people repeatedly say in consultations that they want to feel valued, respected, listened to and have their ideas taken seriously. They also want to be involved in making decisions and influencing matters that affect them. They recognise these rights as being important to their wellbeing.

A key function of the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA is to promote the participation of children and young people in the making of decisions that affect their lives and to encourage government and non-government agencies to seek the participation of children and young people appropriate to their age and maturity.1

Many organisations are involved in developing and delivering services for children and young people or engaging with children and young people as part of their work. These include schools, councils, police and justice organisations, medical practitioners and hospitals, and the family court.

All organisations whose work affects children and young people are encouraged to involve them in decision making. The Commissioner has published the Involving Children and Young People: Participation Guidelines for organisations that are planning to involve children and young people in their work and decision making.

The Commissioner has also provided case studies of the great work occurring around WA to involve children and young in ways which benefit both the organisation and children and young people.

The Commissioner undertakes consultations with children and young people on a wide range of topics and prepares reports and other publications, including:

Commissioner for Children and Young People 2020, Speaking Out Survey 2019. The views of WA children and young people on their wellbeing - a summary report, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.

Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2017, Speaking Out About School and Learning, The views of WA children and young people on factors that support their engagement in school and learning, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.

Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2016, Children and Young People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds Speak Out, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.

Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2015, “Listen To Us”: Using the views of WA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to improve policy and service delivery, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.

Data gap

There is a lack of data on WA children’s experiences of autonomy and having their voice heard.

Endnotes

  1. Commissioner for Children and Young People Act 2006, Western Australian Government.
Further resources

For more information on children’s autonomy and voice refer to the following resources: