There’s still time to register to be part of the Charter of Rights review!

cartoon circle of children

Have you registered the children and young people in your care to have a say about their rights? As part of the review of the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care, we want to know what matters most to these young people.

We have a bunch of activities for all ages, from being part of a workshop, chatting to one of our advocates, to sharing their thoughts on our online survey. We also have a fun activity book – filled with colouring-in sheets and puzzles to solve – to educate young children about their rights, and to ask them what makes them feel happy and cared for.

If you would like a copy of the activity book, or to register for any of our other activities, just complete the online Youth participation form by 5pm on Friday 3 July.

Don’t miss the opportunity for the young people in your care to have a say about what matters most to them!

If you would like any more information about the activities or the review project please contact Mardy McDonald at [email protected].

Register for children and young people to have a say about their rights

We need your help! We are asking all children and young people in care, or with a care experience to have a say about their rights. What they tell us will help shape the revised Charter of Rights for Children and Young People.

Watch the video of Oog and friends asking for everyone’s help. (Please share this video with the children and young people in your care.)

How can children and young people have their say?

Children and young people can have their say by…

  • being part of a workshop*
  • having fun with an activity book
  • telling us what they think in an online survey
  • speaking to one of our advocates.

What you need to do

To help us determine what activity would best suit the children and young people in your care please complete the Youth participation form. Based on the information you give us, we will help you in deciding the most suitable activity. Please register by completing the form by Friday 3 July.

*If you are interested in running a workshop, an existing relationship with the group of young people or experience as a group facilitator with kids in care would be required. If you are unable to facilitate a workshop but think this would suit your group of children and young people, please let us know and we might be able to assist.​

What happens next?

Once we have received your Youth participation form, we will confirm what activity best suits the children and young people in your care. We will then provide you with the materials needed for the chosen activity. Consultation for feedback of the revised Charter closes on Friday 7 August 2020.

Want more information?

If you would like any more information about the activities or the review project please contact Mardy McDonald at [email protected].

Art workshops inspiring more than just a logo

Artist and youth mentor Shane Cook

A group of young people in the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre (formerly the Adelaide Youth Training Centre) recently put their artistic ideas to paper in a series of art workshops.

The workshops gave the young people the opportunity to inspire a new logo for the Training Centre Visitor, as well as providing input into a larger piece of artwork to design and promote the Charter of Rights for Youths Detained in Detention Centres. The added bonus for the young participants was the chance to work with Aboriginal artist and youth mentor Shane Mankitya Cook.

Throughout the workshops, Shane provided the young people, who were selected based on their own interest in art, guidance on getting artistic ideas onto paper and exploring these further. He also shared his own experience of growing up – which he described as ‘full of adversity’ – and how he overcame these challenges through art and connecting with his culture.​

Shane said working with the participants was a great experience for him and everyone involved.

“I’m very passionate about helping others engage in mindful activities such as art, as I have experienced how powerful it can be for our mental health,” Shane said.

“Also assisting young people with an opportunity to create artwork that will then go on to be published is a great accomplishment. The participants engaged with the workshops really well. I am very proud of them and the work they contributed to this project,” he said.

The centre’s Programs Manager Paul Aardenburg was also pleased with the young people’s involvement in the workshops and Shane’s ability to quickly develop a great rapport with them.

“Shane shared his journey with the young people and reinforced to them that positive change is possible,” Paul said.

Shane will now take the ideas created in the workshops and build on these to develop a logo and artwork for the Charter, alongside a graphic designer. This work is part of a bigger project that is currently underway to develop some exciting branding for our office which we hope to launch in a few months.

We would like to thank the young participants, Shane, and Paul and his team for all their efforts in being part of the workshops.

Feedback from all those involved said the workshops were excellent and the young people were especially excited to see the finished product. We couldn’t agree more!

Artwork in the making.

 

Review of rights of young people in care is set to begin

We are excited to announce we will be embarking on a project next month to review the rights of children and young people in care. Every child has rights but children who can’t live with their birth parents are entitled to a special set of rights to ensure their safety, health and wellbeing.

In 2006 our office worked with some children and young people in care – or with a care experience – and relevant stakeholders to develop this special set of rights, outlining what a child in care deserves and needs to live a safe and happy life. And so, the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care was born.

The Charter was tabled in parliament in 2010, with the requirement that every organisation and person who works with children and young people in care applies these rights to their everyday practice and dealings with these young people. The Charter is reviewed every five years to ensure the rights are still as important and relevant to this young cohort today.

Over the next few months we will be asking anyone who is interested, including people who have previously been under guardianship or in care, children and young people who are currently in care and others who have an interest, about their thoughts on the existing Charter.

This will be an opportunity to share any new ideas and thoughts you may have to reflect the rights of young people currently in care. There will be many ways you can have your say so stay tuned to our weekly blogs.

If you would like to receive updates about the review and be part of the project, we would welcome your interest and you can email Mardy McDonald at [email protected]. 

We look forward to working with you all to help shape a brighter life and future for these young people.

Happy SA Youth Week

Happy SA Youth Week! While this year’s Youth Week might look a little different, we are still celebrating the amazing contribution that young people make to our lives and community.

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, we have been reflecting on how social distancing and self-isolation have made us think differently about how we live our lives, from how we spend our time, to how we stay connected to our friends and family. Our team has certainly become more creative in keeping in touch with people and how we spend our weekends!

So this Youth Week, we want to hear from the young people in your care about how they dealing with these tricky times.

We ask you to take a few minutes out of your day to have a chat to the young people in your care to talk about the positives changes and challenges they are facing. Maybe they love wearing their pjs all day or maybe they’re really missing catching up with their loved ones, or for those living in residential care who will soon turn 18, perhaps they are concerned about what this means for them in the current environment.

Here are some questions you could ask:

  • What is your favourite thing about being at home?
  • What do you like least about being at home?
  • How are you staying connected to family and friends?
  • Have you learned something new (maybe a new hobby)?
  • What worries you the most during this time?
  • What is the one thing you wish you could do right now?

Share the voices of the young people via Facebook or email us at [email protected]. (Please supply the child’s age and type of care they are in, and let us know if they are happy for us to publish their thoughts on our Facebook page and website.)

Together we can make sure their voices are heard.

Breaking down communication barriers in youth detention – the real difference “speechies” can make!


Senior Speech Pathologists Melissa Saliba (left) and Larissa Ashton

It is estimated 90% of young people in the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC) are at risk of having a language difficulty*. A language difficulty is when a person has trouble understanding what is being said to them and is unable to express themselves clearly through their words, sentences and stories. And the effects of such a difficulty can be devastating.

“A person ‘at risk’ of having a language difficulty means if they underwent further detailed assessment, it is quite possible they would be diagnosed as having a language disorder,” according to Senior Speech Pathologist with DHS’s Youth Justice Division, Melissa Saliba.

“When a person cannot communicate and process language well, they can become frustrated, and if they are not supported or their needs are not met, it can result in the downward spiral of disengaging from school and making poor decisions,” Melissa said.

Melissa is one of the speech pathologists working with young people in the youth justice system (including in the AYTC) as part of Youth Justice’s state-wide rehabilitation program. The program aims to give young people access to speech pathologists, psychologists and occupational therapists, to help improve their short- and long-term outcomes.

AYTC Senior Speech Pathologist Larissa Ashton said the biggest problem is that communication difficulties often go undiagnosed.

“A lot of young people don’t know they have a language difficulty and have just ‘survived’. They are also very good at hiding their issues,” Larissa said.

“For others who do know they have difficulties, they often don’t have the necessary supports and opportunities to overcome them. Quite often the first time a young person receives support is once they have been detained at the centre.”

Both Melissa and Larissa have been working alongside the psychologists and occupational therapist who work with the young people, to piece together a young person’s needs and identify what support they need.

“Rather than seeing a young person as misbehaving, we explore the underlining reason for their behaviour and identify what support they might need,” Melissa said.

Once a young person is referred to the speech pathology service, the team then work with the young person, their families, school and other service providers to create an overall picture of what the young person is doing well in, and where they need help.

“Once we have assessed what their communication needs are, we will work with the young person, in the visitor centre, the unit or their classroom, to identify ways to help overcome some of their communication difficulties,” Melissa said. “We aim to work towards a focussed goal – for example, meeting new people.”

“Young people are keen to hear the results of their individual assessment. Knowing they have a language difficulty helps things make sense for them,” Larissa said. “After a session they often ask when we will be back, so our engagement seems to be making an impact.”

The role of the AYTC’s speech pathologists doesn’t just include working with young people. The speech pathology team also works directly with AYTC staff and service providers (both in and outside the centre) who work with the young people, to help them communicate in a way that is accessible and can be understood.

“It can be as simple as adjusting the way they communicate, like by adding more visual context, simplifying their language and checking in with the young person to ask if they understand what is being said,” Melissa said.

Since their time within the centre, both Larissa and Melissa have noticed staff becoming more adept at noticing the signs of language difficulties and have changed the way they communicate with the young people.

In the future, the speech pathology team hopes to review the written policies and consent forms given to residents to ensure they can fully understand their rights and responsibilities while in the centre.

Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, the speech pathology team – along with AYTC’s other allied health services – is continuing to provide services to the young people via phone. Work is currently underway by the AYTC and the Department for Human Services to obtain the equipment needed to provide these services via video calls.

You can see just what a difference targeted speech pathology made for a particular young person in the NSW youth justice system in this inspiring video.

Identifying communication difficulties

Here are some signs that a young person has communication difficulties:

  • often says “I don’t know” or “I forgot”
  • uses lots of vague words (eg “things” or “stuff”)
  • unable to paraphrase what you have told them
  • cannot follow instructions
  • avoids reading or writing tasks
  • avoids eye contact.

What can you do if you suspect a young person has a communication difficulty?

  • Simplify the language you use when talking to young people – use short sentences, avoid jargon and keep instructions brief
  • Try using images (e.g drawings, pictures, a few written words) when communicating to a young person
  • Check in with the young person to ask if they understand what you have said
  • Seek help from a qualified speech pathologist.

*This 90% figure is based on results from a language screening assessment undertaken as part of the 2019 AYTC screening project to assess the needs of the young people and look at what services they may need.

CREATE – representing the voices of young people in care for 20 years

CREATE Foundation has come a long way from its humble beginnings with its small member base meeting in garages and community halls 20 years ago. Today, the national consumer body which represents the voices of children and young people in care has offices in each state and territory, employs almost 50 staff and has over 19,000 young members.

CREATE was formed with the vision that all children and young people in care can reach their full potential. Its mission is to give children and young people in care the confidence to use their voice, to connect with other young people and to stand up and make change in the care system.

Fabian McPhee, the Community Facilitator at CREATE in South Australia who’s worked with the organisation for four years, said while a lot has changed about the way CREATE thinks about and acts on issues, the founding vision remains.

“The vision, from the beginning, has been the same and that’s been to give every young person the same opportunity that every other young person should have being in care,” said Fabian.

Reflecting on 20 years of CREATE, he says there’s now a lot more engagement with young people in care and a lot more members in South Australia. SA currently engages with its members through its ClubCREATE magazines, connection events, Youth Advisory Groups and the Speak Up empowerment program.

Recently appointed CREATE State Coordinator Amy Duke says they are excited about what the future holds for CREATE in South Australia.

“In SA, I think we have the opportunity to capitalise on some fresh and exciting ideas from other states,” she said.

The Hour of Power is one of these initiatives out of Victoria that allows young people who are no longer in care to stay connected with CREATE. The bi-annual forums provide an avenue for young people with lived care experience to present key issues and share ideas for policy and practice change. The young people set the agenda, facilitate the conversation and share their lived experience with the aim of improving the lives of young people in care and the system itself.

“Having opportunities for those young people to practice the skills and learnings from being part of CREATE will keep them engaged. CREATE provides children and young people with the opportunity to direct our advocacy and have a voice in systemic change,” Amy said.

As for the future of CREATE at a national level, the teams are working towards ensuring the voices of children and young people in care are being heard loud and clear when it comes to being involved in decisions that affect them.

CREATE’s Chief Executive Officer Jacqui Reed noted in the latest annual report that “young people are telling us overwhelmingly that they want to be involved in decisions that affect their lives, and want to have plans for their future that they are involved in developing.”

“Our team are prioritising the need for the sector to plan appropriately, and more importantly to ensure that children and young people’s views are heard during the planning process and reflected in whatever planning documentation is developed,” Jacqui said.

For more information about CREATE visit their website at www.create.org.au.

Natural advocacy – how you can empower a young person

Children and young people in care have not always had the time and support they need to develop the knowledge, skills or confidence to express their views and advocate for themselves. Navigating the child protection system can be a difficult task even for the most seasoned professionals – and much more so for the children and young people who are caught up in it.

The right to an advocate

One of the rights outlined in the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care is that children and young people have the right to speak to someone who can act on their behalf when they cannot do this.

The number of children and young people in care who may need advocacy support far outweighs the resources of the Guardian for Children and Young People. For this reason, children and young people in care need the adults in their existing network (both personal and professional) to advocate for them. Such adults can, and should, act to ensure that the voice and interests of each child and young person in care are represented.

We call this ‘natural advocacy’.

Natural advocacy supports the voice and rights of the child. As well as having their voice heard and their rights addressed, being involved with the advocacy process can allow young people to learn valuable lessons; that they have rights, including the right to be heard, that rights can be negotiated to achieve better outcomes, and the value of persistence.

As a ‘natural advocate’, you can work with a child or young person to help ensure:

  • they have a place to live where they are safe, cared for and respected
  • their views and wishes are asked for, and considered, in planning such as at care team meetings, case conferences or annual reviews
  • they are given the opportunity to participate in decisions that are made about matters such as school changes, placement moves, or family contact
  • they have access to services such as health, housing, mentors, cultural support, recreation and education
  • their interests, aspirations, achievements and strengths are recognised and supported by the adults around them
  • they know about the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care
  • they know how to access a complaints or review process if things aren’t going well for them, or if they disagree with a decision that has been made about their care.

Your advocacy might involve contacting services and decision-makers directly, or supporting the child or young person to do this themselves.

Challenges in advocacy

One of the most significant challenges a natural advocate may face is that advocacy can sometimes be misread by other care team members, colleagues and/or management as disruptive or obstructive to the work of the care team. Natural advocates may also fear that they will not be as powerful as an external, professional, or more senior voice, and so they may not feel empowered to pursue an issue on the child or young person’s behalf.

This is where the Charter can be helpful. The Charter, which has been widely adopted and endorsed by 88 organisations to date, frames the work of an advocate positively, as a legitimate action that focuses attention on the child or young person’s voice and rights. Grounding your advocacy in the Charter can prompt discussion and reflection, which can in turn promote child-focussed decision-making.

There are a few things to remember if you are going to act as a natural advocate for a child or young person:

  • Wherever possible, it is important to seek the child or young person’s consent to act on their behalf (if they have not asked you to do so).
  • Wherever possible, it is important to seek the child or young person’s voice on matters related to their care, so that this can form the basis of your advocacy.
  • Consider, at the outset, whether it is safe for you to advocate for what the child or young person wants (their safety is paramount).
  • Involve the child or young person in the process as much as possible (depending on their age and developmental capacity), or in accordance with their wishes.
  • Role-model positive communication and team work throughout the process.
  • Be careful not to make promises about the outcome or what you can achieve, but reassure the child or young person that you will do your best to help them have a voice in the process.
  • Be mindful of keeping your own views, complaints or frustrations separate from the child or young person’s voice and needs.

If your advocacy is not successful, be honest with the child or young person about the process and outcome. Support the child or young person to reflect on what they might have learned or achieved through the process, and congratulate them for their bravery, confidence and persistence. In some situations, it might be appropriate to explore whether a compromise can be negotiated, and in other situations, it might be appropriate to pursue a formal complaints or review process.

What next?

If you, or the child or young person, continue to hold significant concerns after you have attempted natural advocacy, you can contact us for advice about other options and/or an assessment of whether advocacy is required from our office.

You can phone us on 8226 8570 (adults) or 1800 275 664 (free call for children and young people only).

Training Centre Visitor team wraps up pilot inspection

The Training Centre Visitor Unit has wrapped up its pilot inspection of the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC).

As November marked the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is timely this inspection – which assesses the conditions and management of the children and young people who are detained there, and ensuring their rights are being upheld – was carried out.

Training Centre Visitor Penny Wright said the inspection is the cultivation of two years of hard work from the TCV Unit staff in establishing the TCV program and building relationships with the residents and staff.

“My dedicated team has worked hard, visiting the training centre every fortnight to advocate for the rights and best interests of the residents. Through this consistent visiting program we have been able to get an accurate picture of what life is like for the children and young people detained in the centre,” Penny said.

“By combining our learnings from the past two years with the voices of residents and staff we have heard during the inspection, we can create a better understanding of how to work together with Youth Justice to ensure the children and young people have a brighter future and have the capacity to reach their full potential.”

As part of the inspection, the TCV Unit staff met with AYTC residents, staff and management to talk about what life is like in the centre, covering topics such as resident safety, health care, cultural rights, respect and dignity, education and training, case planning and access to grievance processes. They also facilitated focus groups and reviewed documents.

Input from residents was enthusiastic and thoughtful and guarantees that our reporting can reflect their voices loudly and clearly.

Here are some of the things the residents told us:

  • ‘The health centre is my favourite place to go – it makes me happy and comfortable.’
  • ‘I like all the staff really’.
  • Respect is ‘talking to me normally and makes me feel good!’
  • ‘I am scared I will lose my grandpa while I am in here – and I am not able to hold his hand.’
  • Respect is ‘being believed and not made to be a liar.’
  • ‘I wanna pass that [year 11] and go do my SACE.’
  • ‘We should get more elders in.’
  • ‘The staff are heaps good. They talk to you in good ways, help you out. They care about you.’
  • ‘I identify myself as a young offender. The kids aren’t proud, they’re scared…’

We would like to thank the children and young people and AYTC staff and management for being part of this inaugural inspection and sharing their thoughts about what life in the centre is like for them.

Findings from the inspection will help shape the way the TCV program and future inspections are run and developed. The inspection also provides valuable experience as we gear up for the imminent introduction in South Australia of the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

A formal Inspection Report will be provided to the Minister for Human Services for presentation to Parliament in early 2020.

Here are some of the artworks the residents created during the inspection.

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.