The Things That Matter is the latest report released by Commissioner Helen Connolly. It examines the findings from the Commissioner’s ‘Tell Helen’ postcard survey of South Australian children aged 8 to 12 years. Every child in this age group across the State was sent a postcard to complete and return before the end of School Term 4 last year, with the Commissioner achieving a 25% response rate that saw 8,429 postcards returned.
Commissioner Connolly asked SA ‘tweens’ a series of open-ended questions about what matters most to them at this time in their lives, including what they would do if they were the boss of South Australia? Many focused on the importance of getting a good job, while others were concerned about better sporting facilities and good ovals being created.
They were also interested to see anti-bullying and wellbeing initiatives put in place at school, including suggestions for meditation sessions to be incorporated into the classroom on a daily basis.
“Opinions from this age group are rarely sought” said Commissioner Connolly. “The focus most often goes into the early years of children’s lives and into the challenges and pressures of the teenage years. However I have been concerned that the voices of 8-12 year olds were not being heard, and to guide the work of my office I devised a project that would enable this group of South Australians to tell me what matters to them most.”
According to the survey SA children value kindness, fairness and equality in leaders and ‘doing the right thing’, ensuring ‘everyone’ regardless of age or background can afford healthcare, education, housing and transport. Children want to learn, play, do well, and be happy, healthy, active and creative. They want this for other people as well as for themselves. They also want to have a voice and a promise of a job in the future and to be connected online and offline – to places, information and opportunities.
“Children see a direct to link between their education and learning now, to their present and future wellbeing and prospects. Some children are focused on global issues, but almost all children are focused on the importance of their connections at the local level.”
“Being asked what matters to children at this age sends them a clear message that their point of view is valued and sought after. They told me that when this happens they feel respected, and have a greater sense of their own agency and capacity for change.”
“When adults take the time to involve children in telling them what matters we can confidently shape attitudes and policy accordingly, accommodating the ideas and opinions of children in this age group and demonstrating the benefits of taking a child’s rights approach. This involves a commitment from to us to listen actively to what they say, and then amplify what they tell us to decision makers so that we reinforce and legitimise the view that children are critical stakeholders who have a valuable and unique contribution to make, particularly in relation to matters that have a direct impact on them.”
“Parents, carers and educators can take heart by the values-driven responses South Australian children have made to the open ended questions I posed. These included what they like to do, what they want to do, what their concerns are, and what they would change if they could.
I didn’t pick up on any materialistic, or individualistic themes in any of the 8,429 responses received … these kids were talking about others, about being a good friend and about being a good person. These are the years in which we have a rare opportunity as community leaders and educators to really connect with children on things that matter to them. By establishing lines of communication and trust at this time, adults can understand the world from the perspective of a child. This means sitting down and really listening to their concerns and addressing their specific challenges, as well as acknowledging and validating their hopes and dreams, whatever these might be at this time in their lives.
Following the success of the 2019 survey the Commissioner has decided to undertake her “Tell Helen” Postcard Survey on an annual basis to build a more in-depth understanding of the lives of South Australia’s 8 – 12 year olds over time. The goal this year is to achieve a response rate that doubles the response rate of 2019.
Tell Helen Postcard Survey 2020 Underway
If you or your school would like to get involved you can download the postcard artwork and instructions at the following link:
To download your copy of the Commissioner’s “The Things That Matter” report go to: