Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have the right to say what they think should happen when adults are making decisions that will affect them. This includes having their opinions taken into account.  

While engaging with children and young people on services and policies aimed at them is vital, knowing how to effectively engage with young people can be challenging.

To help individuals and organisations better support children and young people’s participation and input, the Commissioner has developed a suite of ‘how-to’ guides for governments, community organisations and schools. Applying these guides will enable adults to engage with young people in ways that are much more likely to bring about positive change. It will bring them in on matters that are important to them, helping to guide policy development and services so that they are more targeted and more effective – i.e. delivering what young people actually want, rather than what adults think they want. 

The guides – which range from how to develop surveys and vox pops to hosting focus groups and workshops for young people – make up the Commissioner’s new Civics & Citizenship Engagement Toolbox. They form part of a new website aimed at supporting educators to promote greater participation in civics and citizenship by young South Australians.  

The toolbox was created after the Commissioner identified that the primary cause of young people’s disengagement from civics processes was due to a feeling of hopelessness. 

“Children and young people care deeply about their communities and the world around them, yet they are frustrated with institutions that do not include them or represent their views, and which fail to take action on public policy issues they believe should be prioritised.” 

Many young people have told the Commissioner they are being denied opportunities to participate and are often excluded from public consultations, particularly in relation to those issues that matter to them most.  

“They say this is because of their age and a perceived lack of life experience, leading to their opinions often being invalidated. This leads young people to conclude that policy makers lack the skills, mindset and support they need to be effectively engaging young people in policy and decision making.” 

The Commissioner says young people need to have opportunities to participate in democracy if they are to fully understand its importance. This is what her Civics & Citizenship Engagement Toolbox aims to facilitate – meaningful and genuine engagement with young people so that they feel valued and able to participate more often and more easily.  

“A new and different approach must be taken to help young citizens access government engagement opportunities more easily. In this way we can start to develop a dialogue with policy makers that encourages young people’s participation in the design of policies, laws and even budgets.  

“Providing multiple pathways and touch points for young people to engage with adult decision makers would see services tailored to meet their identified needs, rather than well-meaning adults making assumptions about what these are.” 

To access the Civics & Citizenship Engagement Toolbox, visit:  

Read the Commissioner’s Issue Brief on Barriers to Civic Participation here.