Wellbeing of children and young people in care 2008-09

The Guardian for Children and Young People monitors the circumstances of children under the guardianship, or in the custody, of the Minister for Families and Communities. The feedback and findings of monitoring activities are reported directly to the agencies involved and to the Minister.

The Report on the wellbeing of children and young people in care in South Australia – 2008-09 summarises the information in one place and makes the general conclusions available to a wider audience.  We will publish a written response from Families SA in the near future.

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Magill photo expo

This photo is just one of the dozens of remarkable images created by the residents of Magill Youth Training Centre in September.

Photographer and tutor Jeremy Watson said the images, produced after only a few hours of tuition and practice, were as good as those produced by some of his other students over many days and weeks.

‘We started out by getting the young people to pick out a couple of photos from a collection I brought and asking them to say why they had picked them and how they made them feel.

‘From the start the interest and enthusiasm were great.’

Very soon the discussion progressed to the genres of portraiture, landscape and close- up and then onto mastering the controls of the digital cameras newly purchased for the project.

‘After shooting we brought all the kids back and they had the chance to look at and evaluate their work on the monitor.’

In the words of some of the young people involved:

Taking pictures, it was fun.

I learnt how to hold steady the camera and how to use macro.

It’s not always about a front on photo, you can take them in all different ways.

It felt like we had freedom and fun with the photos.

I learnt how you can find good photos anywhere.

Program Coordinator at Magill, Julie Wright, said that it was great to be able to introduce a new activity for the residents and one which was so interesting and accessible to all of them.

‘Everything went off without a hitch, and since we bought the cameras staff are finding other ways to use them as part of unit activity and to document events.’

At the end of Child Protection Week, a photo exhibition of prints of selected pictures was staged for all residents, some staff and guests from the Office of the Guardian.

Viewers were very impressed by the originality and technical quality of the images produced by the young photographers while the residents were enthusiastic.

‘Now that it has gone so well’, says Julie, ‘we’ll be trying to organise more photography activities in the future and we are already looking for opportunities for some residents who’ve shown a real interest to continue their photography when they leave juvenile detention..’

View the Magill residents pictures collage in PDF.

 

Magill Youth Training Centre

The axing of a new youth detention facility in the State Budget had condemned hundreds of young South Australians each year, some as young as 10, to spend their days in the grim decrepit confines of Magill Youth Training Centre.

Many will spend their nights on a mattress on a single wooden bunk in a 2m x 3m cell off a narrow corridor, unrelieved by a picture on the wall or a desk or a chair.

The toilets are down another corridor. Taps leak, tiles are broken and the cut-off doors afford no privacy. The windows are rendered opaque by grime, thick bars and wire mesh.

This tired and threadbare institution sabotages the efforts of staff to provide a safe and positive environment. It sends the clear message to staff and young residents alike that they are worthy of nothing better, seriously undermining the work of rehabilitation.

This decision is poor economics. For each of these young people we allow to graduate into a life of crime the cost to policing, the justice system and prisons is many times over the cost of rehabilitation.

It leaves South Australians in breach of international rules to provide ‘facilities and services that meet all the requirements of health and human dignity’ for juvenile offenders.

But most of all it is profoundly unkind and uncaring to some of our most vulnerable young people. I challenge any Minister responsible for this budget to spend an hour or two with the children in Magill and not feel deeply ashamed.

Pam Simmons

Guardian

Published in The Advertiser 8 June 2009.

Review of programs in youth training centres

In July 2007 the South Australian Guardian for Children and Young People commissioned the Centre for Applied Psychological Research, University of South Australia to conduct a review of programs available to young people in secure custody. The report was completed in January 2008. There had been no independent review of programs in secure custody, although the need to develop youth justice programs was identified by the Families SA Youth Justice Directorate in their 2007 Training Centre Action Plan, the SA Social Inclusion Commissioner, and the SA Parliamentary Select Committee on the Youth Justice System which reported in 2005.

The report is in two sections. Part 1 is a review of the scientific literature on theories and practice in youth justice. Part 2 reports the findings from interviews with a range of stakeholders and focus groups with young residents. Part 2 also contains the recommendations.

Download the literature review

Download the report

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Serious repeat young offenders

Among other statutory functions the Guardian for Children and Young People acts as an advocate for the interests of children under the guardianship, or in the custody, of the Minister for Families and Communities.  This includes young people in the secure care centres.  It is in this capacity that the following submission is made.

This submission is prepared on the basis of the Office’s experience in investigating individual matters, talking with experts in the area of youth justice, and our knowledge of policies and practice in Families SA.

You can download a PDF file of Serious Repeat Young Offenders .