Benefits of sport to improve outcomes of young people at risk

We all know sport is great for our physical and mental health. Engaging in a team sport offers many benefits, including developing our physical skills, creating a sense of belonging, boosting our self-esteem and developing resilience and social connections. Playing sport can also help us learn to cooperate and listen to others.

These benefits should not be downplayed, especially for young people who are at risk of not being exposed to developing these skills in their own home environment.

In fact, sport and human rights advocate Craig Foster recently emphasised the importance of sport in education and awareness, highlighting sport can play a fundamental role in helping young people gain a better understanding of their rights.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have the right to: live a full life and that governments should ensure children survive and develop healthily; join groups and organisations; and relax, play and join in a wide range of leisure activities – all of which sport can play a large role in.

The Charter of Rights for Youths Detained in Detention Centres also reaffirms the right for residents to get exercise and to go outside every day, except when the weather is bad. It also includes the right to participate in activities and programs that help a young person’s rehabilitation.

A UK review into how sport could stop people reoffending outlined that sport participation in prisons can contribute to reducing violence and conflict, developing communication skills and increasing opportunities for gaining education and employment upon release.

With this in mind, we were delighted to hear the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC) have recently installed football goal posts at the Goldsborough Road campus. Residents had campaigned for more opportunities to engage in sport so it is great to see they have been listened to and that their rights to participate in exercise and activities are being enhanced in this way.

Residents have told us they were happy with the addition of the new goal posts, with staff reporting residents are making good use of the new facilities and are enjoying the opportunity to be competitive with one another.

It will be interesting to hear what difference the addition of the goal posts will make in the lives of these young people within the centre.

Report highlights privacy issues at youth training centre

The right to privacy when using the toilet and showering, and the standard of bedroom facilities are just some of the issues of concern in the latest Training Centre Visitor’s (TCV) report.

The TCV’s Visiting Program and Reviews of Records Term 4 report reports on the visiting program and associated review of records undertaken in term 4 in 2018, at both the Jonal and Goldsborough campuses of the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC).

Privacy issues

At the time of writing the report, cameras had been fitted into some bedrooms at the Jonal campus; now all bedrooms within the campus have had cameras installed. Camera footage is viewable on multiple screens in the main office area of the unit which are visible to staff, visiting personnel and other residents. Photographs used in the Ombudsman SA’s report on the use of spit hoods in the AYTC, released last week, show that cameras in rooms directly oversee the toilet and shower area.

The TCV acknowledges the importance of cameras to monitor safety of young people at times of increased risk, but not switching cameras off for toileting or blurring certain areas of the footage undermines a young person’s inherent dignity.

AYTC residents have expressed their concern about the lack of privacy:

“They watch us on the toilet, that’s just yuck.”

“Some staff turn the screen in the office around, some cover it, but I’m always on the screen.”

“We expect to be on camera if we are fresh in, or play up or having silly thoughts, not all the time.”

This remains an issue to be resolved.

Review of bedroom standards

The standard of bedrooms was also a focus in term 4. All bedrooms were reviewed at both campuses, with some lacking the basic features and amenities that would constitute a ‘bedroom’ for other children and young people.

The National Quality of Care Standards and Design Guidelines for Juvenile Justice Facilities in Australia and New Zealand outlines that to “maxim[ise] young people’s chances of rehabilitation and reintegration into society” it recommends that each bedroom should include a bed, desk, chair, clothes storage, shelving and a secure cupboard.

It was noted in the report that some AYTC bedrooms were bleak and contained minimal furniture and very few personal items, and included the removal of light switches and carpets. If a young person was required to eat in their room, they would need to do so on their bed.

Recommendations

As a result of these findings, the TCV has recommended that young people are advised of their rights to privacy and to have the bedroom camera turned off for toileting if they so wish, as well as ensuring the bedrooms meet the minimum standards of what constitutes a bedroom.

Room refurbishment is a costly exercise, and since writing the report, staff at the AYTC are making plans to refurbish some of the rooms in the coming months.

The TCV Unit in the Guardian’s office is currently preparing to conduct the first formal inspection of the AYTC later this year which will address selected standards and monitor matters that have been raised in TCV’s earlier reports. The formal inspection report will be published early next year.

ANZCCG commends documentary ‘In My Blood It Runs’

An upcoming documentary that tells the story of Dujuan, a 10-year-old Arrernte/Garrwa boy, as he tries to overcome systemic injustices, has been given full support by the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Commissioners and Guardians (ANZCCG).

As SA Guardian and Training Centre Visitor, Penny Wright is a member of this peak body, which is made up of those entrusted with safeguarding the rights and interests of children and young people in Australia and New Zealand. After watching an advanced screening of ‘In My Blood It Runs’ earlier this year, the ANZCCG have issued a joint statement commending the documentary and highlighting the ‘value and importance of listening to and understanding children’s voices and experiences from their own perspective’.

‘In My Blood It Runs’ follows the charismatic young ‘healer,’ Dujuan, and his family as they share their experiences trying to prevent Dujuan from entering the criminal justice system. After becoming increasingly disengaged from school, Dujuan soon comes under the watchful eye of the police and welfare agencies. But through the love and support of his family and community, Dujuan has been able to avoid falling into the justice system and has begun a powerful campaign to raise the awareness of addressing systemic racism that young Aboriginal children too often face.

Dujuan travelled to Geneva earlier this month and gained significant media coverage when he became one of the youngest people ever to give a speech to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. He shared his experiences about the youth justice system to build support for Aboriginal-led education models that would help prevent youth offending and support their connection to their culture and language. You can watch his speech here.

The ANZCCG encourages all Australians to watch this film and to share its message of ‘children having access to culturally safe, inclusive schools; addressing systemic racism in all our institutions; and preventing the criminalisation of young children like Dujuan, including reforms to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility’.

‘In My Blood It Runs’ will be in cinemas in February 2020.

Read the full ANZCCG statement.

CREATE celebrates 20 years

This year CREATE Foundation turns 20 and is celebrating with a number of birthday parties across Australia.

Earlier this month, Guardian Penny Wright attended the festivities in Adelaide, which included a lunch provided by the Rapid Relief Team, along with face painting and balloon twisting.

‘It was great to attend CREATE’s 20th birthday at beautiful old Brocas House in Woodville and celebrate their crucial role in the lives of many children and young people in care,’ Penny said.

‘Young people often tell me CREATE is there for them and how connected, supported and genuinely respected they feel,’ she said.

CREATE is the national body representing the voices of children and young people with a care experience. They offer programs, services and support across Australia for children and young people in foster care, kinship care and residential care.

CREATE can also be a strong and stable influence and connection for young people in care when everything else is changing at 18.

Sonja Brown is one of the young people whose life has been influenced as a result of CREATE.

‘I first had contact with CREATE when I was about 13. But I really got involved with them at 16. I went to every camp and helped plan some of them,’ she said.

‘They were the first people I contacted when I was kicked out at 18. They referred me to some youth housing services. When I told them the other services wouldn’t help me because I had a pet they still tried to help me find emergency housing,’ she said.

Sonja Brown has gone on to become a Young Consultant through CREATE’s Speak Up training, working to help other children and young people in care.

Our Office would like to say a big happy birthday to CREATE, and congratulations on the support you have given to the children and young people in care over the last 20 years. We echo what young people tell us: You really are awesome!!

CREATE SA State Coordinator Amy Duke, our Community Advocate Karina-Michelle Yeend and Guardian Penny Wright, and CREATE Youth Consultant Lisa Hoggard

Sonja Brown and Guardian Penny Wright

Guardian Penny Wright all smiles with other party guests

Clowning around

Extending the benefits of foster and kinship care

picture of Penny Wright

By Guardian Penny Wright

In South Australia, there are currently 3418 children and young people in foster or kinship care. This represents 85 per cent of children in care.

The benefits of family-based environments for children or young people who cannot live with their own family are well-known. They can provide a stable, safe and secure home where young people experience positive relationships with parental figures and, at their best, feel loved and nurtured.

In addition, kinship care can allow the child or young person to maintain their connections to family, community and culture. Conserving this connection to community, culture and spiritual identity is especially important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.

This podcast from Radio National, ‘A Portrait of a Foster Family,’ captures beautifully the joy and challenges of offering kids a home…

For many years, a young person’s 18th birthday has meant an end to most of the support available to them, with the end of payments for their carer or foster parent. Frequently this has meant leaving the home they have known, although some foster and kinship carers continue to offer and provide care if they are able.

Very few young people in Australia face complete independence and an end to care and support on their 18th birthday.  It seems harsh and illogical that we currently have systems that treat young people who have lived in care so differently from those who have grown up with their own families. What might this feel like? We get a sense in this short video of Keira’s Story.

Advocates (including those from our Office) have long been calling on governments to extend support beyond 18 and now a national campaign, ‘HomeStretch’, is working to raise the age of leaving care across Australia. Last month, a symposium in Sydney brought together policy developers, service providers and academics to explore what extending care until 21 across Australia could look like.

According to Home Stretch, within one year of leaving care at 18, 50 per cent of young people will find themselves unemployed, homeless, in jail or a new parent. There is clear evidence that extending care until 21 provides vulnerable young people with extra security as they enter the workforce or further education and pave their way into adulthood. Deloitte Access Economics presented the findings from their Victorian study into the costs and benefits of extending the age of care to 21 and found extensive savings for government in housing supports, justice costs and those relating to alcohol and other drugs, welfare and hospital funding (with better outcomes in mental and physical health, employment, education, social and civic connectedness and a reduction in intergenerational disadvantage).

I attended the symposium and can see that the shift to extending care until 21 for all young people in care would be life changing.

Thankfully, in January of this year, the South Australian government introduced the Stability in Family Based Care program which extended foster/kinship carer support payments for some young people up to the age of 21. Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia have also started to take some action on this.

So far, of about 65 eligible young people in South Australia, 17 have accessed the program. A further four young people yet to turn 18 have been referred to the program and more than 100 are set to become eligible over the next three years.

This is a welcome development in South Australia but currently this option only applies to young people in foster and kinship care. At this stage there is no similar provision for young people living in residential care who often approach their 18th birthday with trepidation, uncertainty and anxiety as they face an end to the structures, support and relationships they have known up to that point.

Extending care for those in foster and kinship care is an important step but we must ensure the remaining young people in our state’s care system are not left behind.

In the words of the campaign, #letsfinishwhatwestarted and #makeit21.

National Child Protection week

picture of Penny Wright

By Guardian Penny Wright

This week is National Child Protection Week, an annual event that aims to engage the whole community in protecting children and supporting families.

This year’s theme introduces the idea of a ‘child development’ communication frame. Rather than talking about good, bad or effective parenting, the child development communication frame shifts the focus to the support parents need to raise thriving children.

This approach reflects the evidence that children do well when their parents are supported and that we can all play a part in supporting parents when they need help to navigate life’s choppy waters.

This is based on research from the Frameworks Institute, commissioned by the Parenting Research Centre that looks at how the way we communicate can affect children’s outcomes.

By changing the way we talk about parenting, by avoiding criticism and judgement, we can focus on what effective parenting is really about – ensuring children are provided with a safe and stable environment that enables them to thrive.

Effective early intervention and prevention programs for families at risk of entering the child protection system are essential to ensuring parents are supported. For this reason, we welcome the $3 million in funding to trial an intensive family support program for South Australian families in the northern suburbs that targets support to those at risk.

In situations where children are no longer safe and protected from abuse and neglect and do enter care, it’s important they remain the central focus of our thoughts and communication.  Each child in care is a unique individual in a huge system. To avoid the risk that they may be overlooked or ‘lost’, we are committed to adopting a child-centred approach in our advocacy and visiting functions. As advocates, we will continue to encourage others to do the same in what can sometimes be an overwhelming and complex structure.

This National Child Protection Week, and every day, we can all play a role in ensuring children are safe and protected from harm. The words we choose have impact.  The way we talk about children can become their inner voice. Let’s all work together to communicate what is really at stake – a happy, healthy future for all of our children.

Charter of Rights resources

Has your agency endorsed the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care? If so, we have a number of free resources promoting these rights that you can order and share with children and young people in care.

Resources include:

  • booklets and comics
  • posters
  • toys
  • apparel and accessories
  • contact information for children
  • flash cards for children in care with disabilities.

You can also download free posters, colouring-in sheets, brochures, and checklists for workers when a child enters care or changes placement.

To order the resource materials visit our resources webpage.

To date, 88 agencies have endorsed the Charter of Rights, making a commitment to support the Charter and apply it into their daily practices of working with children and young people in care. In return we provide ongoing updates and information about children’s rights and access to free resources to distribute to all young people in care educating them about their rights.

Not an endorsing agency? Find out more about endorsing the Charter.

Connect to Culture Children’s Day

Last Friday staff from the Office of the Guardian joined in the celebrations of this year’s national Children’s Day at the Aboriginal Family Support Services’ Connect to Culture Children’s Day event.

Now in its third year, the event, which was held at the Parafield Gardens Recreation Centre, was a great way to celebrate the culture and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and learn about the importance of culture, family and community in their lives.

There were a number of activities for children and adults alike, including weaving, painting, boomerang making, face painting, balloon twisting, jumping castles and live music.

To the delight of the children (and adults), Oog also made a surprise appearance and even busted out a few moves on the dance floor.


Aboriginal Family Support Services Cultural Advisor, Barbara Falla organised the third Connect to Culture event.

Quarterly advocacy report sees rise of in-mandate enquiries

There has been a 58 per cent increase in the number of enquiries within our mandate (i.e. in relation to children and young people in care) received by the Office of the Guardian in the last financial year, compared with the previous financial year.

The Office of the Guardian’s quarterly summary of individual advocacy data from April to June 2019 showed that in the last quarter 115 in-mandate enquiries were received, bringing the total of in-mandate enquiries for the 2018/19 financial year to 406, an increase from 256 from the previous year.

It is difficult to be sure about the reason for the dramatic increase but Assessment and Referral Officer Courtney Mostert said the increased presence of the Office of the Guardian’s staff out in the field and identifying individual needs for advocacy certainly contributed to the rise. The increase of children living in state care could also have been a contributing factor.

Of the 406 enquiries received, the majority of children were aged 10 to 17, lived in residential care and were requesting advocacy support.

The top four issues remained unchanged from the 2017/18 year, with having a secure and stable place to live being the greatest concern. This was followed by issues around having contact with their birth and extended family, not feeling safe, and feeling like they’re not playing an active role in the decision-making process for the issues that affect them.

Office of the Guardian celebrates NAIDOC Week

This NAIDOC week we were fortunate to be involved in a number of events celebrating the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This year’s theme ‘Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let’s work together for a shared future‘ acknowledges that Indigenous Australians have always wanted a greater role in the nation’s decision making processes.

Office of the Guardian and Training Centre Visitor staff at the NAIDOC Family Fun Day

Office of the Guardian and Training Centre Visitor Unit staff joined in the celebrations at the South Australian NAIDOC Family Fun Day at Tarntanyangga (Victoria Square). The event followed the NAIDOC March and included more than 40 stall holders from government and non-government organisations.

Unfortunately, the rainy weather kept Oog away, but the staff team had valuable discussions and shared some of our resources.

Voice. Treaty. Truth. poster painted by Arrin Hazelbane

Arrin Hazelbane from the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People kindly allowed us to display his poster at our stall after the march.

Office of the Guardian resources at the stall