South Australian has many inspirational young people with thoughtful ideas and unique perspectives; I am not sure I was prepared for the volume and quality of feedback and input my Listening Tour would generate.
Despite some degree of pressure to launch a plan early, I held to my initial intention to not do anything too detailed before getting to know more about the children and young people of the state.
As explained to many children and young people over the past few months, it would have been easy to stay in my office and search online for ‘what children and young people think’ or speak directly to young people and meet adult stakeholders through my contacts to design a plan of action.
However, that approach would have been disrespectful to the children and young people of the state, and the advocates who had fought for years to have a Children’s Commissioner.
It would have also not delivered the same richness of conversations and forming relationships that getting out and about across the State has achieved.
By adopting an immersion approach, and spending as much time as I can meeting face to face with children and young people in small, medium and large scale groups, I have been part of enlightening conversations and have been given a strong indication of the areas our children and young people think I should work on.
To date, I have held 60 consultations, and group conversations with 950 children and young people and they shared with me what they want me to do in my role.
In addition to the discussions, I have also conducted polling at public libraries, sporting events, schools and recreation events to get a sense of what children and young people spend their time doing, what they think is important and what they want for the future. My sessions with young leaders from civil society groups have inspired me and given hope for the world where equality is valued.
Children and young people know that the world is changing rapidly and how they engage with the world are changing. They want formal education to keep pace with the relationship skills, creativity, agility and problem-solving capabilities they need to participate in the changing nature of the world of work.
They know that their online and offline worlds are connected and that screen time is more about tuning in than tuning out. They want adults to have a better understanding of this.
Children and young people have expectations about their power as consumers, in so many aspects of their world they get to express their likes and dislikes but in areas that impact them, they feel powerless and voiceless. Children and young people value the experience of adults but believe equally they have a perspective on the here and now which is informed and should be included.
Most importantly they are global citizens that care about others and want to tackle big social issues like poverty and homelessness. Give them half a chance and together in partnership we might be able to make a real difference.