7 November 2017
It is now just over three months since I took up the role of Guardian and to say it has been a busy time is an understatement! A new job always brings many pressing tasks – but I have been keen to get out into the field and meet as many people as I can among the vast range who have a stake in, and a commitment to, the work we do. Most importantly, I’ve already had the chance to meet some of the children and young people who benefit from our work – both in the office and at the Adelaide Youth Training Centre.
I’ve also set about acquainting myself with the knowledge and expertise that underpins the work carried out by the Office of the Guardian since 2004, coming to grips with the post-Nyland Royal Commission landscape and wrangling some of the administrative and human resource intricacies of my role.
But all of this took a backseat for a time when we needed to respond urgently to some important legislation that, if passed by the South Australian Parliament, would have significantly affected the children and young people for whom we work. One of the bills, the Statutes Amendment (Recidivist and Repeat Offender) Bill 2017 was ultimately not passed in the Upper House. We expect the other, the Statutes Amendment (Sentencing Youths as Adults) Bill 2017, to go to a final vote in mid-November. My office produced a substantial submission on this bill and an opinion piece published in the Advertiser, detailing why it is inappropriate to treat children as adults for the purposes of sentencing when we do not do so in so many other areas of life. It is ironic that the young people who would be affected by this change have not been entrusted with the right to vote for our parliament because they are not adults. We remain hopeful that the MPs who do have the final vote will cast it thoughtfully, mindful of the national and international standards which the bill infringes.
Other events this quarter have included a review of the GCYP Strategic Plan, which has involved extensive discussion and contemplation about our vision and how we might get there. We are still working on this and I will report on the finalised Plan in the next newsletter. We are also looking to expand or move from our current site as we have outgrown our space. The team is adapting with good humour and forbearance but things are becoming increasingly ‘squeezy’ and we have run out of nooks and crannies.
In the new year I intend to visit more sites, meet more departmental staff in both the child protection and youth justice jurisdictions and hear from more interested and affected participants in these systems – including non-government agencies, carers and concerned community members.
Above all, I will be ensuring I actively listen to the children and young people for whom our office works. As well as capturing their views through the work of the Advocate team, we are exploring new ways to maximise our capacity to hear the ‘voice’ of those who are most intimately affected by the child protection and the youth detention system. We must hear that voice, and share it with all those of us who need to hear it. And together we must heed it.