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Commissioner reports no real improvement on child rights in SA

Commissioner Helen Connolly has today released her fourth annual series of reports on South Australia’s progress toward meeting recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The evidence suggests that despite activity across all portfolios there has been no real improvement over the last year.

Released each year to coincide with International Human Rights Day (10 December) the reports examine South Australia’s progress in relation to Child Health, Child Justice, Child Protection, Education, Physical Punishment, Disability, and the Environment, highlighting the areas in which the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concerns about Australian laws and practices.

Download full media release here
Download Suite of 2023 Child Rights Progress Reports Executive Summary
and a compilation of all seven reports via the link below:
2023-Child Rights Progress Reports

Commissioner Connolly calls on government to invest in school excursions to support SA families doing it tough

South Australia’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly, has today released her Anti-Poverty Week Statement calling on the South Australian government to provide financial support to enable all students in SA to participate in active learning experiences. These include attending a school camp, going on a field trip, or being part of a music or sports tour.

For this year’s National Anti-Poverty Week (15 – 27 October) Commissioner Connolly is focusing in on the impact that missing out on school camps, field trips and excursions has on children and young people. She argues that because of the benefits we know these interactive learning experiences offer students, we should ensure that all students can participate in them.

Read the full media release here:
 2023.10.17 – MR – APW_Commissioner_calls_on_government_to_invest_in_school_ excursions_to_support_SA_students_doing_it_tough

Read the CCYP’s full 2023 Anti-Poverty Week Statement here:
202310 Anti-Poverty Week Statement FINAL

South Australian students call for comprehensive mental health support on World Mental Health Day

This World Mental Health Day, members of the South Australian Student Representative Council (SA SRC) are calling on the South Australian Government to remove barriers for high school students to access pools, gyms, leisure centres and fitness classes to support their mental wellbeing. 

The call comes as part of the SA SRC’s Fitness for Free campaign, which aims for a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to dealing with stress and promoting healthy school-life balance. There is strong research to demonstrate the link between physical activity, social interaction and good mental health. For many young people, the cost of regularly attending facilities such as pools, gyms and fitness classes is prohibitive. 

Read the full release: 2023-10-09 – MR_ Free Fitness for Students on WMHD_FINAL
Sign the Petition: Fitness for Free Petition:

Is SA’s mental health care system ‘fit for purpose’ asks Commissioner?

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Commissioner Helen Connolly, is calling on the government to position mental health care within a rights-based framework that has relevance and usefulness to the lives of children and young people living in the 21st century.

She has today released Missing Voices – mental health as described by primary school children; a booklet containing 48 quotes that show there can be no doubt some primary school aged children across our communities are facing mental health challenges with which they need our help. The Missing Voices booklet is complemented by the Commissioner’s latest Issues Brief: Developing a ‘fit for purpose’ mental health care system for 21st century children and young people

The Commissioner’s aim is to ask the question of government and the community as to whether South Australia’s current mental health care system meets the needs of children and young people. With issues including lack of affordability, long wait lists, and services that children and young people say are not culturally safe, gender and identity-affirming, or trauma-informed, the Commissioner is not convinced it is.

Read Full Media Release:  2023-010-06 – MR_CCYP_Is_SAs_mental_health_services-system_fit_for_purpose_FINAL

Download Missing Voices – mental health as described by primary school children
Download Issues Brief: Developing a ‘fit for purpose’ mental health care system for 21st century children and young people

Safe and Sound – How children and young people view and use public transport

The South Australian Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly, has released her report Safe and Sound – views and experiences of young people on public transport. In 2022, the Commissioner surveyed over 1,000 young South Australians aged 13-20 years about their thoughts relating to public transport services, and the report is formed from their responses.

Children and young people are reliant on others to get to anywhere they can’t walk or cycle to. This makes access to public transport extremely important to young people across metropolitan, suburban and regional South Australia.

When transport is lacking, unreliable, unsafe, or unaffordable, it has a disproportionate impact on the quality of children and young people’s lives, including their ability to maintain education, employment, family connections and friendships. There are strong links between children and young people’s mobility and their overall social inclusion and wellbeing.

In the report, the Commissioner makes several recommendations based on the things young people said — primarily in relation to issues around affordability, safety and accessibility. A key recommendation is providing free transport to students already identified as being part of low income families and therefore in receipt of a Student Card. In addition to the cost of transport, the report identifies perceptions of safety waiting for and while on public transport as unfairly impacting young women, LGBTQIA+ people, and those with disability, limiting their mobility and independence.

“Transport is central to how young people experience their community and affects almost every aspect of their lives. Young people’s access to a full range of reliable, consistent and integrated transport options is not just a ‘nice to have’ – it is an essential component of their full participation in society as active and engaged citizens.”
Commissioner Helen Connolly

Download the PDF of the report here.

Statewide Civics & Citizenship online resource portal launched

The Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly has launched a new online platform to serve as a one-stop resource for all things Civics and Citizenship in South Australia. One of the things children and young people have repeatedly told her is that they care deeply about many current issues but cant find a way to express their concerns or have their views and opinions taken seriously by adults. They wanted to participate in decision making but couldn’t see how this could be achieved.

The new site has been developed in consultation with like-minded organsiations who over the past few years have collaborated with Commissioner Connolly on a range of initiatives designed to foster Civics and Citizenship engagement amongst young people. These initiatives include Democracy in Action, Policy Advocates, Citizen Researchers, yChange for Schools, SA SRC, Civics and Citizenship Professional Seminars for SA Teachers, and Civics in the City Grants Program.

“Children and young people have repeatedly told me that they want to understand the systems that govern them and how to engage in the decisions that affect them, that is why civics education is so important.”    

                                                                                                                                                                    Commissioner Helen Connolly

The new website provides curated listings of civics opportunities, awards, historical sites and tours, civics education resources and youth voice resources. For those seeking a deeper dive into the civics offerings available in South Australia, the website’s Civics Directory allows site visitors including students, educators and interested others, to browse over 230 entries relating to Civics and Citizenship across a range of locations, themes and target audiences, with links direct to the organisations behind each resource or listing. The directory will continue to be updated as time goes by, with visitors to the site encouraged to make contact with the Commissioner’s office and make staff aware of any entries they believe could or should be included.

The Civics and Citizenship website aims to support, encourage and enable young people’s engagement and participation in society, by providing resources that foster a greater understanding of the systems and processes that impact children and young people in Australia’s democracy.

The website is also home to the Commissioner’s Youth Engagement Toolbox – a series of resources for schools and community groups to follow when engaging with and consulting children and young people.

In her recent issues brief ‘Barriers to Civic Participation’, the Commissioner identifies narrow advertising in calls for young people’s involvement in decision-making as a major issue, which this new platforms hopes to also help address.

Visit today.

Supporters and collaborators include:

Her Excellency the Honourable Frances Adamson AC, Governor of South Australia, Parliamentary Education Office (Cth), Parliament of South Australia, History Trust of South Australia, The Centre of Democracy, Adelaide Holocaust Museum, Legal Services Commission SA, YMCA Youth Parliament SA, Green Adelaide, Duke of Edinburgh Awards, Children’s University Australasia, Association of Independent Schools South Australia, Humanities and Socials Sciences SA, and Generation Citizen.

Best Interests – The experiences of children and young people within the child protection system

South Australia’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly, has launched her report Best Interests – Listening to children and young people’s experiences within the child protection system. The report highlights the importance of children’s interests, their connection with family, and their engagement in education. Most of all, it calls on child protection systems to see children as experts in their own lives who must be central to decisions made about them.

The report is made up of information and quotes gathered directly from 88 children and young people aged between 4 and 25 who had varied experiences across a variety of care settings in South Australia. In addition to this, a further 40 responses from children and young people living in foster, kinship, or residential care were received by the Commissioner via specially-designed postcards asking about participants’ wishes, securities, worries and what they’d change to make their lives better.

The report states that many children spoke of feelings of powerlessness and a lack of understanding about their current and future circumstances.

As a result of the responses from children and young people, the Commissioner has made a series of recommendations including the child protection system recognise the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child ‘best interests’ principle as the primary consideration when making decisions regarding children and young people in care.

“If we are to start decreasing the numbers of children in out of home care in South Australia, we must change the system we have been using. It’s not working for children or their families. The data and the feedback from children and young people is clear on this.”
Commissioner Helen Connolly.

Download the PDF of the report here.

Commissioner’s Small Grant Program 2023 – NOW OPEN!

South Australia’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly, has launched her Small Grants Program for 2023 and invites community groups, arts organisations, sporting clubs and local government to apply for small grants of up to $5,000 to undertake activities and projects to promote youth engagement, involve children and young people in decision making, and promote awareness relating to periods and menstrual equity.

There are three grant types on offer:

  1. Community Action Grants to promote participation of children and young people in the development of solutions and strategies to local community issues and challenges that they have identified.
  2. Child and Youth Engagement Grants to support community groups to devise and facilitate activities and projects that support recognition of children and young people as key stakeholders.
  3. Period Grants to support activities related to raising menstrual awareness, providing menstrual education, and supporting menstrual management with a focus on young people.

Find out more here including how to apply before 31 March 2023.

High Stakes High School – what needs to change for SA’s Year 12 students

South Australia’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly, has launched her latest report: High Stakes High School – The experiences of South Australian Year 12 students. The report is the result of a series of face-to-face consultations with groups of students attending Year 12 at four Adelaide Schools with an additional 72 Year 12 students engaged with the issue via one-off conversations with the Commissioner. In addition to these conversations, a broader group of 223 young people aged 16 – 19 years completed a survey asking them questions that covered their expectations, challenges, and highlights, as well as how prepared and supported they felt during their final year of school – sharing their experiences, feelings, and reflections in real-time as they navigated the highs and lows of their final school year. The survey also asked how confident they felt about life beyond Year 12, and what they thought would improve the Year 12 experience. Key messages contained in the report include the need to deepen our understanding of the significant challenges and barriers being faced by Year 12 students and recommendations for development of a Year 12 Charter for students and teachers thereby changing the ways in which we engage with children and young people throughout their entire schooling years – supporting them to not only prepare for Year 12, but to develop a lifelong love of learning that is not just about where a good ATAR score can get them in life. 

“Imagine a world in which final year students are made to feel optimistic about their future and the choices available to them. A future they enter to embark on the next phase of their life’s journey with confidence and enthusiasm for what lays ahead – not dread and fear of not measuring up.”  Commissioner Helen Connolly.

Download the pdf of the report here.

Commissioner notes ‘little change’ on Child Rights on SA despite increased recognition of what’s needed

Commissioner Helen Connolly has today released her annual series of reports on South Australia’s progress toward meeting recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The recommendations relate to concerns the Committee has in relation to Australian children and young people.

The suite of reports measure progress across seven child rights areas reviewed on behalf of the 369,400* children and young people (under 18 years) living in South Australia. They list the initiatives and programs that have been introduced to address areas of concern, and outline where gaps and shortfalls remain. Released each year to coincide with International Human Rights Day (10 December) the Commissioner’s Child Rights Progress Reports examine Child Health, Child Justice, Child Protection, Education, Physical Punishment, Disability, and the Environment.

Download the full media release (including links to each of the reports) here

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