The Guardian welcomes Re-Engage into the Charter family

pcture of three people signing the Chater

Executive Officer Linda Symons signs the Charter for Re-Engage flanked by Guardian Pam Simmons and Youth Services Manager Kerrie Sellen.

Guardian Pam Simmons presented a Charter of Rights endorsement certificate to a gathering of Re-Engage staff and Board members at a meeting on the 19th of August.

Re-Engage provides a range of programs and services across Adelaide and in Mt Gambier to assist young people to reconnect to education, employment and the community.

If you’d like to comment on this, please join the discussion in the panel below.

Child Protection Systems Royal Commission speaks to young people

Image of RC consultationThe Child Protection Systems Royal Commission will result in recommendations to strengthen the state’s response to children and families in crisis and to children in state care. Judging by the number of written submissions (331) there is optimism about what will be achieved.

The Office of the Guardian (GCYP) emphasised what children and young people have said about their experience and children’s views about what works best for them. The submission covers three broad areas of family support, out of home care and opportunities for children in care.

These areas were replicated in the GCYP and Create consultation with 35 children and young people for the Commission staff to hear directly from young people about their views. One young person echoed what many had to say, with “the children must be heard – in their own words.”

The GCYP submission suggests strengthening the legislative requirement for participation of children in making decisions, with an over-arching section in the Act.

The submission on out of home care leads off with the view: If my family cannot safely care for me, find me a second family, not as a replacement but to give me that loving home. The growth in numbers of children requiring guardianship services and out of home care has tested and thwarted the best intentions of everyone working in this area. The out of home care system is not working as it should, evidenced by the expansion of residential care for children of all ages and the high use of interim placements. No matter the quality of the care, these are not replacements for loving families and homes.

Consistent with recommendations made previously, the Guardian suggested:

  • An out of home care plan to ensure that supply better matches demand and anticipates changes.
  • An accompanying plan for workforce development, quality improvement and independent monitoring.
  • Closure of the remaining six large residential facilities.
  • Growth in therapeutic foster care to reduce the use of residential care.
  • Social workers supported to visit children every month, which will require workload analysis in the first instance and probable consequent changes to distribution of resources.
  • A community visiting program for children in the first few years of being in care, when instability is at its highest.

It is easy to stand on the sidelines and see what needs to be done. It is a hundred times harder to change the game plan in the midst of such pressure. The focus though on what can be done, rather than on what has gone wrong, is the tone of discussion needed now.

For other related topics and ideas see GCYP Submission to SA Royal Commission Child Protection Systems.

Workshop at Key Assets kicks off the Charter review

Image of Key Assets consultationThe Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care was launched nine years ago and the legislation requires that it now be reviewed. The idea behind the Charter was to have a statement for children and the adults who care for them that would address the rights of children in their particular circumstances. The 37 rights in the 2006 Charter are a single reference point, a touchstone by which the community, the child protection system, workers and the children themselves can judge how well they are being looked after.

But after nine years are all of the rights still relevant? Should some be added and others removed or the emphasis changed? And are the various publications and products we use to communicate the rights messages still relevant and effective?

The Guardian put these questions to a small panel of young people at a workshop on 15 April. Working through the rights one at a time, the group agreed that most were clear and still very relevant.

I have the right to live in a place where things are fair

was criticised for being too vague and in need of rewording ; what did ‘fair’ mean and was it the same as ‘equal’.

I have the right to add information to my personal file

caused discomfort for some participants, mostly around the idea of there being a file with all of their personal information that people could read without their knowledge or approval.

‘That makes me feel weird. There would be things in there I don’t know,’ said one young man while another promised ‘I’m going to tell them to burn mine when I turn 18’.

I have the right to know and be confident that personal information about me will not be shared without good reason

Discussion of this right led to the expression of some similar concerns to those above and the feeling among some young people that it should be reworded to make it more specific.

‘It was a great morning meeting the young people at the consultation,’ said Guardian Pam Simmons.

‘Their discussion of the rights raised some important issues and prepared us to hear from other groups of young people later in the year.

‘Thanks to our partners Key Assets who arranged for the young people to attend and lent us their meeting room and their active support during the workshop.’

What’s been done March – May 2015

Image of Aboriginal Children in Care in the Murraylands Facebook pageThe consultation with children and young people has ramped up in these three months. We have hosted consultations on child protection systems and the Charter of Rights, and interviewed five young Aboriginal people for a new video about being in care and culture. The book of children’s views on the topic of respect, from the 2014 consultation, is at the printers.

Available now are updated reports on expenditure in child protection and trends in educational attainment for children in government schools.

If you missed the releases in February, there are new reports on the use of interim emergency care and reports on the conditions for children in smaller residential care and larger residential care. The Guardian’s submission to the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission is also now available, as is the response to the proposals for adoption law reform.

To support our face-to-face meetings with Aboriginal communities in the Murraylands we have a second Facebook account.

In the first quarter of 2015 there were 35 requests for intervention about children under guardianship, involving 49 children. The Senior Advocate audited 56 annual reviews and the Advocates made five official visits to residential or youth justice units.

The Guardian has met with over 120 people so far to introduce the new Charter of Rights for children and young people detained in youth justice facilities.

Respect is… expressed in so many ways

Picture of Respect front coverIn five workshops last year the Guardian and her team spoke to 42 children and young people in state care about what the term ‘respect’ means to them.

‘We wanted to give the young people the opportunity to speak about the important relationships in their lives without being too prescriptive, so we chose the theme of respect’, said Guardian Pam Simmons.

‘The young people responded brilliantly with a flood of ideas, text and images that were honest and perceptive and, occasionally, very funny.’

The question then was how to report back to the consultation participants in a way that was itself respectful and would be read by other children and young people, and by adults who wanted to know.

‘The RESPECT booklet, I believe, genuinely embodies the spirit of our conversations with young people, joyous and exuberant but capturing significant truths and insights.

‘Its bright imagery and bold text can be enjoyed by anyone and its robust spiral-bound construction will make it especially useful for adults in engaging, one-on-one, with children and young people of any age and ability.’

‘The boxes from the printer will be arriving any day now and we will rush some copies of the booklet to the participants and the agencies that facilitated the consultations before arranging for wider distribution,’ she said.

The Guardian’s Office greatly appreciated the work of Time for Kids, CREATE SA, Muggy’s, Key Assets and Metropolitan Aboriginal Youth and Family Services in partnering with us on the workshops and the support of Families SA staff.

Reviewing the Charter of Rights in 2015

words chater of rights in a speech bubble


The Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care was launched in April 2006 and is now due for review.

Since 2006, the Charter has been endorsed by nearly 70 organisations, assisted children and young people to understand their rights and helped the adults in their lives to advocate for and with them.

The Charter has also proven to be a valuable vehicle for conversations between adults and children about the interplay between rights and responsibilities which have made the world a fairer and kinder place.

The place to start in reviewing the Charter is with the children and young people themselves. During 2015 the Guardian’s Office will be partnering with colleagues in government and non-government organisations to ask groups of young people in care about:

  • the relevance of what is written in the Charter
  • what they think the Charter should look like
  • what new ways, as well as the usual posters and booklets, could we use to get the rights message out to children and young people and adults.

‘In the past I have found children and young people in care only too ready to talk passionately and insightfully about rights and I am looking forward to another vigorous conversation’, says Guardian Pam Simmons.

‘The consultations with young people will be followed by meetings with other stakeholders including the Charter of Rights Implementation Committee.

‘Finally we will bring the draft back to a group comprising some of the young people for final sign-off.’

‘We plan to review the content of the Charter but also create a new communication and implementation plan leading on to a new range of Charter promotional materials and a look at the roles of endorsing agencies and Charter Champions.’

If you have any queries about the consultation events with young people, please contact Jodie Evans on 8226 8423 or [email protected]

If you want to know more about the Charter and its work you can visit the Charter of Rights pages on the

Children’s rights are at the forefront in 2015

StC Charter certificate 300pxOver 65 agencies have endorsed the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care and over 200 Charter Champions have committed to promote children’s rights within those agencies. With the world celebrating the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the SA Charter of Rights due for review this year, it is a good time to look again at the significance of articulating rights for children.

In 2005 Guardian Pam Simmons initiated and oversaw the development of the Charter, together with a reference group of young people who endorsed the final version.

‘It was obvious from day one in this job that children and young people in care, and their advocates, needed to know what was fair to expect. The international convention was a great place to start but it needed to be spelt out for the experiences that children in care commonly have.

‘All children have the right to have their views taken into account in decisions that affect them (Article 12) and to get and share information (Article 13). Most children though don’t have a case file. So it was important to say that children in care have the right to add information to their personal file and to be involved in what is decided about their care.

‘The Charter comes alive when people use it to persuade others to do the right thing by a child. Best of all, are the conversations that happen about the rights because it reminds or teaches us about our responsibilities to others. The world becomes a kinder place.

‘It was great fun creating the Charter, which had us working with the good folk in the Create Foundation and two other facilitators in consulting with children. It was the only event that year at which I got to take my shoes off and sit on the floor.

The Guardian is required by law to review the Charter this year.

‘I don’t expect there will be big changes to the words of the Charter but there may be a difference in emphasis and promotion. First off, we will be returning to groups of children to seek their views and then discussing these with the adults who are responsible for meeting those rights.’

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 and was ratified by Australia in December 1990. It has not yet been incorporated into Australian law but Australia’s government has committed to make sure every child in Australia has every right under each of 54 Articles in the Convention.

Compliance with the Convention is monitored by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is based in Geneva. Governments which are party to the Convention must report every five years to the Committee highlighting what they are doing to ensure children’s rights are being met. The Australian Human Rights Commission and non-government organisations provide their own reports containing their views about progress and violations. The AHRC report was released in May 2012 and the Child Rights Taskforce report in June. Australia is due to report again in 2018.

Information about the Charter of Rights can be found on the Guardian’s website and products promoting those rights can be viewed on the materials ordering page.

Former Minister, now Premier, Jay Weatherill with some of the people who made the Charter of Rights a reality at its launch at the Adelaide Zoo in April,2006.

Former Minister, now Premier, Jay Weatherill with some of the people who made the Charter of Rights a reality at its launch at the Adelaide Zoo in April,2006.

Rights may be the key to improving youth detention

ACCG Charter graphic 1

In July, the Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians (ACCG) released a Model Charter of Rights for Children and Young People Detained in Youth Justice Facilities. The model charter is based on international agreements to which Australia is a signatory, and provides children and young people in custody with an easy to understand guide to their rights, and what they are entitled to while in custody.

‘Here, in one document we have some of the key rights that apply to young people in detention’, said Mr Bernie Geary, OAM, Principal Children’s Commissioner in Victoria and the national convenor of ACCG.

‘They may seem basic to most of us, like being treated with dignity and practising your religion, or not being unfairly punished, but most children and young people who are locked up don’t know what they are entitled to, or what to do if they have been treated unfairly.

‘Each of the Commissioners and Guardians will use the charter within their own jurisdiction, but will adapt how the information is conveyed in plain language to young people in custody depending on the individual circumstances in their State or Territory’, Mr Geary said.

Mr Alasdair Roy, ACT Children and Young People Commissioner said that the ACCG hoped that the Charter would assist to highlight the importance of rights in any discussion about youth justice.

‘Many people think that human rights are only relevant to people living overseas, or are simply an abstract concept in international law, but they are not. Human rights are relevant to everyone in Australia, including children and young people in custody, and they are a very useful yardstick by which we can measure the quality of service delivery for children and young people’, said Mr Roy.

‘I was pleased to hear that the ACT Government has announced that it intends to undertake an audit of the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre, using the model charter as a guide, and that they will also be holding discussions with Bimberi residents about how the Charter can best be promoted within the Centre’, said Mr Roy.

A copy of the model charter has been provided by the ACCG to youth justice administrators in each State and Territory.

‘We hope that each State and Territory will see the benefits of a rights based approach, and will use the charter to monitor and guide service improvement within their own jurisdiction’, said Mr Roy.

link to GCYP twitter