Step up and be heard!

words chater of rights in a speech bubbleTammy is passionate about the rights of children and young people.  So much so, she has dedicated herself to a year long school project, to communicate the rights message to children and young people in care.  Talking to her friends reinforced Tammy’s belief that many young people in care are unaware of their rights.

‘I didn’t know that I had rights while I was in care.  I only found out after I had left.

‘My worker and carers had meetings about my change of placement and, although I had a right to be there, I wasn’t invited.

‘When I was invited to meetings, like school meetings between my teacher, worker and carer, I would get invited in half way through with no idea what the meeting was about and no chance to work out what I wanted to say.’

Tammy left school early, but has recently gone back with the aim of finishing her year twelve and going on to study, to work as a mentor or youth worker with young people in the future.

Rights help kids understand they are not alone and they have a voice they can use.

‘My project is aimed at the twelve plus age group.  There is a presentation and an information pack for young people and it will also discuss abuse and where they can get assistance from services.’

Tammy says that sending the rights message to children and young people is not just the responsibility of social workers but anyone working with a child.

‘At school meetings where I was asked for my opinion often it was not accepted or taken into account when decisions were made.’

So Tammy’s advice to workers is to not only hear what young people have to say but accept it and put it into action when making decisions.

Lots of children and young people are scared to have a say but the people around them should support them to build their confidence to speak out.

She recalls that changing placements is stressful as children and young people are likely to move from one set of rules, expectations and lifestyle to another.  Everything can change, literally overnight and leave a young person confused and lost.

‘It is easy for children to get confused about their rights and how to have their voice heard, when changing placements.

‘In a new place it is hard and sometimes scary to speak up and ask questions and present your views or even to talk about how much things have changed for you.’

One of the most significant rights for Tammy, is the right to know about and contribute to your transition from care plan.  She says that the worker and young person need to work together on the plan to make sure that there is the chance to grow in their independence before leaving care.   This can set them up better for life beyond care, where supports are fewer.   Young people need to know their rights to information they may wish to access, their support options and services that are available after seventeen.

‘Housing is one of the biggest issues for young people in South Australia.  There are long waiting lists for houses and for some people there are few options.’

For now, Tammy will concentrate on her year 12 studies and her rights project while also working closely with CREATE to get the message out.

Her final advice to young people in care?

‘Step up and be heard!’

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Welcome to the Charter of Rights Network, EBL!

At a ceremony on 14 June this year, Guardian Pam Simmons and EBL CE Wendy Warren signed EBL's certificate of endorsement at a ceremony attended by the EBL staff team

At a ceremony on 14 June this year, Guardian Pam Simmons and EBL CE Wendy Warren signed EBL’s certificate of endorsement at a ceremony attended by the EBL staff team. EBL provide opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to have new experiences and meet new people while giving carers valuable respite.

Find more about children’s rights and the Charter in our Twitter feed.

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Do you know your rights?

The question Do you know your rights? was brought to life for  a group of young participants in a two day workshop run by Red Cross as part of National Youth Week.

Facilitated by Red Cross Project Coordinator and Charter Champion Stella Koukouvitakis, and Red Cross Youth Advisor Adrienne Virgo,  the workshop  was based around the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and involved ten young people aged between 13 and 19.

DSC_5417m smallGuest presenters from the Youth Education Centre, RespectED and the Legal Services Commission, among others, discussed such rights as the right  to identity, the right to education and the right to leisure, play and culture.

Charter of Rights coordinators Jodie Evans and Yvette Roberts from the Guardian’s Office were invited to consider Article 25 of UNCRC which requires the periodic review of the treatment and circumstances of children in care or custody.   They discussed its main provisions and how it relates to the Charter of Rights which covers children and young people under guardianship or custody of the Minister in South Australia.

The conversation moved to perhaps the most important right, the right to be heard.  Jodie and Yvette  invited participants to consider times that they had been in care, in custody or at school and how well their thoughts and opinions had been sought and considered.  The question  brought forth a flood of comments and advice…

on being ignored or disregarded

  • ‘Often they are judgemental…  they judge you on your appearance, they think you are trouble.
  • They just ignore what we say… they don’t realise that we are not nothing.
  • Often they have their own views about what will work, how it should be and they won’t listen to anyone else.  It is their way.

 on the divide between young people and authority

  • ‘They don’t value the same things as we do…..
  • Often they just don’t make sense.  They explain things their way but we don’t understand what they are saying.  If we ask for them to explain it again they just don’t.

 on the value of involving young people in decisions

  • ‘All views should count.
  • Great ideas don’t come from just one brain.

on persistence and using the system

  • ‘Get your point across.  Eventually people will listen if you are persistent and clear.
  • Earning respect helps you too.
  • Go through the right channels.
  • With more support you feel more comfortable.
  •  If you don’t try you will never succeed.  Trying isn’t failing, it’s an attempt at being successful.  Just because you try and fail it doesn’t mean you will never succeed it just means that it’s not your time to be successful.

For more information on the UNCRC go to

For more information on the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care go to

Find more about the Charter and children’s rights in our Twitter feed.

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Nanny SA endorses the Charter of Rights

photo of Perter emmerton and Pam Simmons surrounded by the Nanny SA team.

Nanny SA CEO Peter Emmerton and Guardian Pam Simmons with the staff team after the signing of the Charter of Rights certificate of endorsement.


In January this year, Nanny SA became the 55th organisation to endorse the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care.  Nanny SA is part of the Hessal Group and provides staff to fill short term vacancies in Families SA houses for young people in care.

Nanny SA CEO Peter Emmerton said, ‘Supporting rights is an important part of what we do here and some of the rights in the Charter will be applicable to all the young people we encounter, not just those in care’.

Find more articles about the Charter and children’s rights in our Twitter feed.

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New Charter of Rights endorsing tool

Endorsing the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care is now more straightforward and efficient with the introduction of the Guardian’s Office online Charter endorsing tool.

Organisations looking to endorse can enter the tool and browse around to find out what endorsement is all about.  They can leave and come back as they wish and finally proceed all the way to the end by applying for endorsement.

Applicants will be able to enter information more conveniently and make changes more easily than with the old paper application method.  We have also added a couple of additional information fields to allow us to work better with endorsed agencies and updated it to take account of the important role of volunteers in some organisations.

The endorsement tool is part of a completely rewritten and redesigned set of Charter information pages which were launched with the endorsement tool for 2013.

Charter Coordinator Meagan Klapperich is available, as before, to provide advice, group presentations and to help with applicants’ questions at every stage.

The changes were prompted by the increase in the rate of endorsements that saw six new agencies endorse in the latter part of 2012.

Read the latest Charter news via our Twitter feed.

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Country North Community Services welcomed into the Charter family

picture of pam Simmons with the CNCs board

CNCS Chairman John Arthur and Pam Simmons (front) are joined by Steve Neild (board), Raelene Hill (board), Steve Lowe (CEO) and Margaret Wayman (board) to celebrate the signing of the certificate of endorsement.


November has seen a round of endorsements with scosa and Red Cross being joined by Country North Community Services (CNCS) to push the total of agencies endorsing the Charter of Rights to well over 50.   Guardian Pam Simmons took the opportunity to visit CNCS board and staff in their George Street office in Balaklava and present the certificate of endorsement of the Charter of Rights.

For more general information visit the Charter of Rights page or there is more specific endorsement information on the How to endorse page.

Hear the latest Charter news via our Twitter feed.

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scosa joins the Charter of Rights family

The team at scosa celebrate after CE Nicole Graham signs the Charter endorsement certificate (inset photo) watched by Guardian Pam Simmons and General Manager Client Services Anita Bayford.

A recent round of endorsements has brought the total number of organisations that have endorsed the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care to over 50 and the latest is scosa – Spastic Centres of South Australia.   The Office’s Charter Coordinator Yvette Roberts worked closely with scosa’s Anita Bayford for a relatively quick and painless endorsement process culminating in today’s signing.

For more general information visit the Charter of Rights page or there is more specific endorsement information on the How to endorse page.

Hear the latest Charter new via our Twitter feed.

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Cara, young people in care and the Charter of Rights

Cara CEO Denice Wharldall signs the Charter certificate watched by Guardian Pam Simmons and the Cara executive team.


Community Accommodation and Respite Agency (Cara) became the 48th organisation to endorse the Charter of Rights when it received its certificate on June 27th.

For over 60 years, Cara has provided accommodation and respite support services across South Australia for people with severe and multiple disabilities and their families.

Todd Williams, Executive Manager, Respite and Client Services, explains that ‘the incentive for us to engage with the Charter has been our relatively recent involvement with providing accommodation support for young people under the care of the Minister.

‘While we have always been involved with young people in care as part of our respite programs and camps, it is only in the last 18 months that we have taken on a more specific role.

‘Under an arrangement with Families SA, we provide a therapeutic care model of support to 11 young people under guardianship in three locations. Cara works with them to provide stable, safe and nurturing environments in preparation for adulthood, ultimately supporting their transition into suitable long term accommodation.

‘We have long recognised the value of having dedicated developmental educators working in our programs. Known as Program Coordinators, they work on site directly with the young people but also to support the other workers to create a consistent therapeutic living environment.’

Todd explains that the success of the program hinges on cooperation between the Team Leader and Program Coordinator who share leadership roles at the houses and between the support workers and the Program Coordinator to sustain the therapeutic environment.

‘We also work very closely with Families SA staff on the critical selection and matching of young people for each house.

‘Our values and our focus on rights already align with the Charter pretty well so endorsing was straightforward for the Board and the leadership team.

‘Where the Charter has been useful to us is to act as a kind of checklist that we can use to challenge ourselves and to guard against complacency about our clients’ rights.

‘The right to be heard and make choices, to be fully involved with decisions about what happens in the house and to have a secure private space to call their own, all these are strongly stated in the Charter and also very important to young people living with disability, learning to manage their behaviour as they develop as citizens and move towards more independent living arrangements.’

Cara has incorporated the Charter into its policies and practice and features information about the Charter and a link on its website.

Follow education and training developments for children and young people in care on our Twitter feed.

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Tracy Rafanelli on being a Charter Champion

picture of Tracy

Tracy Rafanelli

Charter Champions typically have a strong commitment to the rights of children and a belief in the value of a rights-based approach to ensuring their welfare and happiness.

Tracy Rafanelli, Program Co-ordinator at Magill Youth Training Centre* is no different.  She says ‘Being a Charter Champion is an opportunity to promote the Charter within Magill and provide information and advice on the rights of children and young people in care.

‘I am a strong advocate for the rights of young people and I make sure Charter material is available and accessible to all young people and staff across the Centre.’

Champions come from all levels and roles within endorsing organisation.  Youth workers, supervisors, managers and chief executives are all represented in the ranks of the Champions registered with the Guardian’s Office.

‘By endorsing the Charter, our staff are committed to supporting the rights of young people and acting on their behalf if they identify a need. Young people in Magill now have a clearer understanding of their rights from a range of sources,’ says Tracy.

As a Charter Champion at Magill, Tracy has made sure that the Charter of Rights posters and information sheets for staff and young people are posted in all of the units and program room.   Water bottles and stress balls with rights messages have been provided to staff for distribution to young people in the units.  Boxes of the rights flash cards are in units and available to be used by staff during a young person’s induction.

Tracy has spoken to the Centre’s Training Officer to arrange a presentation about the Charter to be made to Centre staff in the near future.

‘Young people at Magill are encouraged to contribute to their future by better understanding their rights, responsibilities and their options for the future.

‘They are able to better seek out opportunities if they are not provided with them,’ says Tracy.

There are 47 agencies that have endorsed the Charter of Rights and the registration of 19 new Champions since December 2011 brings the total to 135.

The full range of materials available to endorsing agencies for distribution to young people in care is available on our website materials page.

* Tracy is temporarily Acting Supervisor at Restitution Services South with the Community Youth Justice Program.

All the Charter news is first on our Twitter feed.

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What’s been done March – May 2012

The Office’s report on a case file audit to assess unmet need for mental health services among children and young people in care was released on 16 February.  Discussion has commenced with agencies affected by the findings.

The report on the wellbeing of children and young people in care for 2010-11 was released on 26 April, following discussion with the Departments about the conclusions. This year the Office reported on safety, placement stability, family contact and participation in decisions.

Following internal reviews of our individual advocacy activity and the visits to young people in residential care some changes have been made.  Changes in individual advocacy will re-emphasise hearing directly from the child or young person.

Relationships Australia (SA) has endorsed the Charter of Rights, taking the total number of endorsing agencies to 47.  The Charter Implementation Committee continues to meet quarterly to share information about issues and challenges in meeting the rights and the Charter Champions now number 124.  Many Charter Champions are now using the special Champions graphic on their email signature to show their support for the Charter and young people’s rights.

In the first quarter of 2012 the Office visited 11 residential sites and audited 31 annual reviews.

picture of cover of assessment toolIf you missed its release in January, there is a new tool on the ISG resources page  to help you assess your ISG (information sharing) procedures for both content and quality. The other good news in this regard was the Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner’s ruling that SA non-government organisations will not be in breach of National Privacy Principles by sharing information where serious harm can be anticipated, provided they follow the ISG.

The Youth Advisors provided advice on parallel planning for young people leaving care and barriers to accessing health services.

Office staff and youth advisors have contributed to community visitor (mental health) training, workplace learning for Families SA staff, development of a carer assessment panel and therapeutic principles for residential care.

Jodie Evans has joined us as an Advocate, replacing Belinda Lorek who is on parental leave.  Jodie brings a wealth of experience in youth justice, here and in the UK, and assisting vulnerable witnesses in prosecutions.

All the latest news from the Office is on our Twitter feed.

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