Meet our university interns

We are fortunate enough to welcome two passionate university students who will be supporting our team while gaining practical experience in their specialised fields.

Let’s get to know them!

Meet Nirvana

Nirvana is currently studying social work and will be supporting the Training Centre Visitor Unit until later this year. Nirvana will be participating in all aspects of the program, including visiting children and young people in the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre (KTYJC) – be sure to say hi to her if you see her in the centre.

What degree are you doing?

I’m in my first year of Master of Social Work at Southern Cross University. My undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Psychological Science.

Why did you want to get into social work?

It has always been my goal to study psychology so when I decided to go to uni I never really looked into any other courses. But about halfway through my undergrad I realised psychology wasn’t for me. I found that the kind of work I wanted to do was more in line with social work. I am glad I studied psychology as I learnt a lot about research, critical thinking, and human development but I really feel a stronger connection to social work and its individual and person-centred approach.

Where do you currently work and what is your role?

I currently work for Skylight Mental Health. I’m a support worker and my role involves supporting people in various ways, such as: 1:1 support, group programs and NDIS applications. I really love my job. I enjoy working with a diverse range of people and that every day is different.

What are you looking forward to the most during your placement with our office?

I’m most looking forward to meeting and hearing the voices and experiences of the children and young people at KTYJC when I go on a visit with the team. I acknowledge what a huge privilege it is to be involved in this aspect of what the TCVU does. I’m also really excited to be able to work and interact with everyone in the office as everyone has so much experience and knowledge that I will be able to take in and learn from.

What are three words that best describe you?

I decided to ask my partner and best friend what 3 words they would use to describe me and they said: ‘authentic, strong and compassionate’.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work/studying/doing placement?

When I’m not working or studying I like to do hot yoga and pilates, going hiking or getting outdoors with my partner, spending time with our cat Marshall and watching Netflix.

Meet Mikeyli

Mikeyli is in her final year of studying law. Mikeyli will spend the next few months working on a project researching the rights of children and young people in care and the most effective legal mechanisms for supporting those.​

“My name is Mikeyli and I am studying a Bachelor of Law and Arts at the University of Adelaide. I am currently in my 4th year and in my final semester of my Arts degree, with a major in politics.

I am an Arrernte woman from Alice Springs, NT and have lived in Adelaide for the past five years for my degree. I have a passion for social justice, human rights and Indigenous issues. Once I graduate, my goal is to practise law and return to my community.”



Plus, we need a new advocate

We’re looking for an experienced advocate who can help us support the rights and wellbeing of children and young people in state care across South Australia. For more information and a copy of the job description visit the I Work for SA website. Applications close at 5pm this Thursday (30 July).


Young people in detention speak out in inaugural inspection report

‘Phase 2’ artwork by young person during the inspection.

The children and young people in South Australia’s youth detention centre have spoken. Bullying, dignity, respect and the need for more cultural programs are some of the topics raised in our just released inspection report: Great Responsibility: Report on the 2019 Pilot Inspection of the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (now known as the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre).

The report is the outcome of our first official inspection of the training centre, conducted in November last year. It represents the culmination of two years of hard work from our team in setting up the Training Centre Visitor program.

The voices of young people and the centre’s staff make for an honest account of life in the centre and are explored in detail in the report.

Our findings delve into whether the rights of the detained children and young people are being met and to what extent the centre’s environment contributes to its objectives of rehabilitation and reintegration of these young people back into the community.

The report contains 10 wide-ranging recommendations on how the centre can better provide for the needs of the young people, including a review as to whether there is an appropriate balance between a model based on security and correction on one hand and one that supports rehabilitation and reintegration on the other.

We give our heartfelt thanks to everyone who was involved in the inspection, specifically to the children and young people and staff who shared their personal experiences about what life in the centre is really like.

You can view the report in full.

We have also produced a child-friendly poster and brochure that offers a summary of what the young people told us and the recommendations we made in the report.

The makings of Nunga Oog

Packing up art boxes to inspire what Nunga Oog will look like.

We are excited to announce the much loved Oog is getting a friend!

Just like Oog, who is the safety symbol for children and young people in care, we think the Aboriginal children and young people need their own safety symbol.

With more than one third of children and young people in the care system who are Aboriginal, it is vitally important to create a safety symbol that represents their own imagery and aesthetics to help connect this young cohort with their culture.

We have set up a project working group to collaborate with Aboriginal children and young people, the community and service providers across South Australia to help create Nunga Oog, who we know will be equally important and loved as the original Oog.

Part of the project is about having Aboriginal children and young people design what they think Nunga Oog could look like. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our plan to facilitate art workshops was put on hold. But with life returning to a new kind of normal, the working group is keen to get young people thinking about the design of Nunga Oog.

To kick things off, we have put together a number of boxes filled with art materials to enable children and young people to create their version of Nunga Oog at home. These art boxes were sent to a group of residential care facilities this week, just in time for the school holidays.

If your residential care facility received a box of art materials, please encourage the children and young people to get involved. All designs need to be submitted to us by 30 August 2020.

For those of you who have Aboriginal children and young people in your care and did not receive a box of art materials, stay tuned for more opportunities to help us design what Nunga Oog will look like!

Latest data shows unacceptable trend continues for young people at school

Despite children and young people in care making up just over 1% of the overall government school population, these students consistently register higher absence rates, significantly lower NAPLAN participation rates, and are more likely to have a learning disability than the overall government school population.

In the latest of our annual education reports, we delved into the data for 2018-2019 to analyse the numbers of children and young people in care who attend government schools, looking at their attendance as well as their performance in literacy and numeracy, as tested by NAPLAN. (It is important to note this data is not currently available for the children and young people in care who attend Independent or Catholic schools.)

Here is a snapshot from the Children and Young People in State Care in South Australian Government Schools 2009-2019 report.

Profile of students in care

  • 58.6% of all students in care were enrolled in government schools. The other 41.4% may attend in the non-government school system, or are below school-age, and a small number are non-identifiable for other reasons.
  • Of the 2,223 students enrolled in government schools in 2019 –
    • 1,083 were female (48.7%) and 1,140 male (51.3%)
    • 1,418 were enrolled in primary school (63.8%) and 805 were enrolled in secondary school (36.2%)
    • 865 were enrolled in country schools (38.9%) and 1,418 were enrolled in metropolitan schools (61.1%).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

(Proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in care compared with all Aboriginal students enrolled in Department for Education schools 2009 to 2019)





  • In 2019, 35.9% of children and young people in care in government schools identified as Aboriginal, compared to Aboriginal students comprising 6.6% of all government students. This reflects the vast over-representation of Aboriginal children in the care system.
  • There are lower rates of school absence for Aboriginal students in care compared to the overall population of Aboriginal students attending government schools.

Students with disabilities 


(Proportion of children and young people in care with a disability compared with all students with a disability enrolled in Department for Education schools, 2009-2019)




  • A greater proportion of all children and young people in care have learning disabilities compared to the overall government school student population, notably in speech and language skills.
  • The proportion of children and young people in care with an intellectual disability is over eight and a half times, and those with complex social/emotional/behavioural needs are nine times higher than the overall government school student population.

Suspensions and exclusions


(Rate of suspensions, children and young people in care compared with Department for Education school population, 2009-2019 (Term 2))




  • Children and young people in care enrolled in government schools are over four times more likely to be suspended and eight times more likely to be excluded than the broader government school student cohort. But it is pleasing to see that the suspension numbers have been decreasing since 2017

Literacy and numeracy


(Rate of participation in NAPLAN testing, percentage of children and young people in care (of those enrolled in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9) in Department for Education schools, 2019)






  • Data consistently demonstrates that children and young people in care who are in government schools achieve poorer outcomes on average in relation to performing at or above the NAPLAN National Minimum Standard.
  • There are very high NAPLAN non-participation rates for students in care in government schools. As a result we know very little about the proficiency of half of all Year 9 students and approximately one-quarter of Years 3, 5 students and 7 students in care enrolled in government schools in 2019.
  • Absence, withdrawal, and exemption rates for NAPLAN testing for children and young people in care attending government schools are higher in every year level and testing category than the broader South Australian school cohort. We do not know why the withdrawal rate is so high or the reasons for the withdrawals.

Download the report in full.

Read the Guardian’s comments about this report in InDaily.

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

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

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.


Young care leavers tell their story straight up in new podcast

A new podcast made by young care leavers is giving them a space to talk about their life’s experiences and to guide other young people about navigating the world upon leaving care.

With candid conversations covering a variety of topics, from what life has been like during COVID-19, having a child while in care, to a wrap-up of last year’s CREATE Conference, the podcast is aimed at breaking down the social stigma of being in care and creating a community where young people can openly share their stories.

The podcast is part of the GOM Central Project and is led by Relationships Australia South Australia Communication and Development Project Officer Eleanor Goodbourn, backed up by a team of young care leavers.

The podcast team have spent countless hours working through topic ideas, and then finding other young people who are happy to share their stories. With the help of an external consultant, the team has also been getting hands-on learning about the art of making a podcast, from the basic principles of storytelling, to the editing and publishing of the final audio.

Young care leaver Jamie-Lee who has played a large role in the making the podcast said the name Straight Up comes from being as up front as they can be.

“There’s nothing people can’t talk about it. It’s about being real and giving young people the respect to talk about things without being judged,” Jamie-Lee said.

“It’s about young people knowing their rights and us providing resources, breaking down topics, and making the information accessible for them,” Jamie-Lee said.

Jamie-Lee said the podcast enables young people to access information, advice and firsthand stories no matter where they are, especially those people who would prefer to just sit back and listen in the comfort of their own home.

“The podcast is aimed at filling in the information gaps for young people. There was so much we [young people in care] wished we knew,” Jamie-Lee said.

Eleanor agreed that young people often felt they are not provided with enough information to fully understand things, and as a result feel lost and disempowered.

“In care young people are often not given full explanations of things. They feel like they are treated as children with certain topics being avoided [like that of pregnancy and drug use],” Eleanor added.

Eleanor and Jamie-Lee said the project has been a big learning curve, with so much more to learn and explore.

“It’s been great learning about other people’s stories and looking at things from a different perspective,” Eleanor said. “And of course, the process of making podcasts has been a huge lesson.”

Jamie-Lee said the team has only just touched the tip of the iceberg of topics that they can delve into and is looking forwarding to the podcast’s future.

The team are already working on Season 2 which will have a focus on financial wellbeing, and hope that in the near future the podcast will be solely created and produced by the young people themselves.

You can listen to the latest episodes of the Straight Up podcast at the GOM Central website.

If you are a young care leaver or know someone who is and they would like to be part of the next series of the Straight Up podcast, contact the podcast team on 0491 091 702.

New virtual monitoring program is switched on

Hearing the voices of children and young people in residential care will be the focus of a new monitoring program that has kicked off this week. Our team of GCYP advocates will be conducting virtual meetings with children and young people living in residential facilities to find out what life is like for them, especially in the context of COVID-19. Face-to-face visits will follow once COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

The virtual visits will enable children and young people to share their thoughts about how things are going at their placement, from what they like and don’t like about living there, to how their lives have been affected by COVID-19.

“We’re going directly to the voice of young people to find out what life is like for them in residential care,” Principal Advocate Merike Mannik said. “The real benefits of running the virtual visits with children and young people is that their voice is up front and centre.”

Principal Advocate Merike Mannik

“While these virtual meetings will give us the voice of the child, they will also help our advocates to build relationships with children and young people, as well as increasing the profile of our office and the work we do,” Merike said.

“Prior to COVID-19 we had planned to personally visit residential facilities once we had conducted a review of records and staff surveys. However, over the last few months we have re-assessed how we want the program to run, with the main focus being hearing the voices of children and young people. With the additional stresses created in young people’s lives from the pandemic we believed it was vital that we commence visits sooner rather than later and connect with children and young people online, with the plan to meet with them face-to-face in the future,” Merike said.

Choosing which residences to visit will combine a random selection and a more targeted approach based on feedback from young people, the Department for Child Protection and non-government service providers.

Children and young people will be provided with information about the visit and can decide whether or not they would like to participate. There is also the option for them to call our office, before or after the visit, to raise any private or sensitive matters.

If there are children and young people living in a residential facility who you think would particularly benefit from a virtual visit by one of our advocates, please let us know the name of the facility by emailing


The importance of National Reconciliation Week

We would like to acknowledge the Kaurna and Peramangk people, the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which our team members live and work. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

As we celebrate National Reconciliation Week in a very different way this year, our team reflects on why this week is important to them.