Commissioner Connolly has today announced the opening of the 2021 Space to Dream Exhibition at the Australian Space Discovery Centre at Lot Fourteen. The exhibition features 21 designs chosen from entries received from more than 2,180 South Australian students whose schools sent them through to the Commissioner for her consideration.
They were a portion of the overall number of South Australian students who participated in the Challenge this year, estimated to be in the vicinity of 10,080 students representing more than 220 SA schools that registered to take part – double the number of participants in 2020. The Space to Dream Challenge supports students to learn design thinking skills and then apply their knowledge to design a toy or gadget for someone their age who is ‘moving to Mars’.
Climate change is consistently in the top 5 issues South Australian children and young people raise with their Commissioner, Helen Connolly. It is an issue they care deeply about and one that is causing them considerable concern and worry. They want to see urgent action taken on climate change now with more focus placed on developing and transitioning to renewable energy solutions faster to eliminate the world’s dependency on fossil fuels.
Concerns about climate change come up in conversations between the Commissioner and young people during almost all consultations, meetings, focus groups and events, and across a range of topics that include poverty, health, education, and transport. The continual focus young people have on climate change highlights the significant worry it is causing them, particularly in relation to the choices they will or won’t be able to make about how they live their lives.
South Australia’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly, has today released a summary report of key findings from a survey of young people aged 12-18 years about their views on COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions. As COVID-19 vaccines have now become available to all South Australians aged 12 and over, Commissioner Connolly felt it was an appropriate time to hear from young people so that their ideas and lived experiences could be factored into decision-making.
In addition to asking for their views on vaccines and restrictions, the survey also asked young people where they get their information from, and what they need from adults to feel better supported during the pandemic. Of the 506 young people who responded, 1 in 3 (33%) knew ‘a little’ or ‘not much at all’ about COVID-19 vaccines. Approximately one-fifth (17%) had already had one or both doses of a vaccine, and two-thirds (67%) said they were ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to get vaccinated within the next 12 months.
Commissioner Connolly has chosen Wear It Purple Day to help highlight the need to create safe, supportive and inclusive environments for all LGBTQIA+ young people attending South Australian religious and faith-based schools.
Her latest report, released today, is No Exceptions – creating safer schools for LGBTQIA+ Students. It follows directly on from her Blame Game report (released Nov 2020) examining the impact of school exclusions, through which a number of students attending religious schools raised concerns that their peers were not being treated fairly and were being made to feel different because of their sexuality or gender identity. The kind of exclusion they reported their LGBTQIA+ peers to be experiencing included exclusion from the curriculum, stereotyping in classrooms, and a tolerance of open discrimination and harassment that repeatedly went unchallenged.
Young people who participated in the study that has led to the report made several recommendations they believed would make schools safer and more friendly environments for LGBTQIA+ young people. These include providing relationships and sexual health education that is respectful of gender and sexual diversity to promote equality, reducing homophobia and addressing school-based bullying and violence; addressing gender and sexuality-based bullying within schools through a review of current school policies, procedures and complaints mechanisms, including assessment of the extent to which they promote safety for all students; and supporting students through provision of links to community-based youth health services and credible information sources beyond school.
Commissioner for Children and Young People is hosting over 100 representatives from organisations around Australia to talk about periods and menstruation at what is Australia’s first National Period Summit. Presented in collaboration with Taboo, Chalice Foundation, Period Revolution and Modibodi, the Summit is being held to start a conversation on how to create a positive menstrual culture across all Australian communities.
The Period Summit grew out of the Commissioner’s Menstruation Matters report in which young people who menstruate were asked to share their opinions on topics related to managing their menstruation including accessing hygiene products and days of school, sport, social or recreational activities missed, due to period pain. The day features experts from across the field such as Lucy Peach, who will open the day, sharing about the untapped power of menstrual cycles. Kate Shepard-Cohen from the United Kingdom will speak on GP awareness and a social prescribing model for managing menstrual issues. Jane Bennett, founder of Chalice Foundation will explore the meaning we currently assign to menstruation, and the difference a revolutionary reframing could make, while Sustainability and Social Impact Lead, Sarah Forde from Modibodi, will discuss the impact menstruation has on the environment. Nikkola Palmer, co-founder of Period Revolution, will discuss the intersectionality of menstruation and the fact that not everyone bleeds the same. Mary Crooks, Executive Director of the Victorian Women’s Trust will present on current trends in workplace policy around menstruation and menopause, while co-founders of Taboo, Isobel Marshall and Eloise Hall, will speak on the need for a voice for young people to be part of menstrual health. Dr Julie Hennegan from the Burnet Institute, one of the world’s leading menstrual health researchers, will discuss effective measurement and monitoring of menstrual health.
Commissioner Helen Connolly, has today released Sex Education in South Australia – a report on the relevance of the sex education being taught to children and young people across the State. The report examines whether the relationships and sexual health education currently being delivered to students in South Australia’s public and independent schools is fit for purpose from the viewpoint of young people themselves. The report draws on 1200 responses from young people aged 12 to 22 years, to a survey asking their opinions on the quality, appropriateness, accessibility, and timeliness of the relationships and sex education they receive at school.
It is clear from their responses that South Australian young people want much more than puberty, anatomy, and a how to prevent pregnancy and disease approach to sex education in the 21st century. They’re seeking content that is more comprehensive and responsive to the current realities, pressures, and complexities of their day to day lives, which vary significantly from those of earlier generations.
Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly, and the Parliament of South Australia launched yChange at Parliament House today. yChange is South Australia’s first curriculum aligned, project based, action civics resource for primary and secondary educators.
The launch of yChange coincides with this year’s National Youth Week, resonating with the theme ‘Our Voice – Our Future’ which encapsulates one of the key reasons the Commissioner developed yChange; to provide children and young people with opportunities to have a voice, choice, influence and agency.
Designed to empower South Australia’s young people with the attitudes, skills and knowledge they need to become active, responsible citizens, yChange delivers a different way to teach civics and citizenship by taking an action civics approach to lessons and learning.
Commissioner Connolly has today released Menstruation Matters – an in-depth exploration of the impact menstruation has on South Australian school aged children and young people who have periods. As one of the first reports to explore the issue in depth it makes the argument that because of the wide-ranging impact menstruation has on children and young people, the onus is on all sectors of society – government, education, business, health, and community – to recognise menstrual wellbeing and dignity as a systemic issue that is fundamental to children’s rights, central to economic productivity, and crucial to achieving gender equity across the State. Children and young people have told the Commissioner they want the social, economic, cultural and environmental barriers relating to menstruation to stop impacting negatively on their lives while in school and across society more broadly. They have made it clear that improved health outcomes require better menstruation education, universal access to period products and adequate provision of facilities that enable them to manage their periods more easily. By addressing these needs the stigma and taboo that surrounds menstruation will decline.
Commissioner Helen Connolly has today launched her latest report with a title that comes direct from a child’s imagination. Cover Books in Nutella was one of many fun ideas children contributed by children on ways to encourage them to read more books. The launch of the report coincides with the start of this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week, marking twelve months since the Commissioner presented her Children’s Stories event in partnership with the Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation and Children’s University Adelaide (CUA). Under the guidance of Ursula Dubosarsky, Australia’s Children’s Laureate for 2020-2021, and SA children’s author and illustrator, Andrew Joyner, approximately 100 children aged 8 – 10 years assembled in the Mortlock Chamber of the State Library to participate in the Commissioner’s Children’s Stories event. The aim of the event was to build their confidence in expressing their own ideas by learning how to tap into their imagination and creativity. By participating in activities that enabled them to experience the benefits of reading, writing and storytelling the children were able to gain an understanding of the many benefits that literacy brings to their lives.
Commissioner Helen Connolly has today launched Zoom Out – a systems thinking challenge believed to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world. Designed to equip young South Australians with the skills they’ll need to be successful 21st Century Citizens, Zoom Out is offered throughout schools in South Australia and is aligned with the Australian Digital Technology Curriculum. Working closely with the not-for-profit Grok Academy (the joined up Australian Computing Academy and Grok Learning), Zoom Out takes children and young people through a series of interactive activities that explain in simple terms what systems thinking is all about; an introduction to adopting a big picture mindset to help solve some of the world’s most vexing problems.