Building skills in engaging with children & young people

Many of us deliver services, design policies or write and implement laws that affect children and young people. But how do children and young people have a say in our work and the decisions we make?

Section 11 (2) of the Human Rights Act protects children’s rights generally and Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child says that children and young people have the right to express their views about the matters that affect them and for those views to be taken into account.

We know that hearing the views of, and having input from children and young people helps make better policy and more effective and efficient services.

In light of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, more organisations also now understand that involving and listening to children and young people is key to protecting them and keeping them safe. But how to do it?

In February, the Children and Young People Commissioner’s team hosted its first workshop for ACT public servants to build skills in consulting and engaging with children and young people.

Throughout the workshop we looked at our assumptions about children and young people, and the power relationships we need to change in order to really listen to children and young people. We learned practical principles to guide consultations, and thought through important ethical issues, including risks and meaningful consent. We also had fun and shared plenty of stories from experience.

Children and young people might be surprised to learn that adults are often scared of them! We discussed what worries us, or holds us back from consulting children and young people, including not knowing how to connect and the onus of responsibility to do something with what we learn.

Participants said the workshop was fantastic, and they went away keen to put principles into action.

Demand was high so we’ll be running more workshops soon. Watch this space!

About the Public Advocate & Children & Young People Commissioner

The PACYPC monitors services for children and young people and people with mental health conditions. The focus of advocacy is on improving services; and ensuring a person’s voice is heard and they have a say in decision-making and in review or consultation processes.

Advocacy is provided for people in mental health facilities, supported accommodation, disability services, out of home care and for people in detention.

Advocacy services are prioritised for people who do not have other advocacy supports, such as community services, family or friends and for people who are at risk of abuse, exploitation or neglect.

The services of the PACYPC are about upholding the rights and interests of people and maximising their autonomy and dignity of choice. You can contact the PACYPC:

  • if a person is at risk of abuse, exploitation or neglect
  • if a service for a child, young person or an adult is not up to standard
  • about the rights, protection and participation of children and young people.
  • via email at ACTkids@act.gov.au