with Helen Connolly
Commissioner for Children & Young People
In my conversations with South Australian children and young people there are four issues that they consistently say worries them most. Not surprisingly, one of these is the environment, another is school and homework, a third is needing assistance navigating relationships with family and friends, and the fourth is not being listened to by adults.
Listening to the views, perspectives and experiences of primary school-aged children is relevant to all levels of government, but also applies to local businesses and community organisations, schools and families, interacting with children across the community. Rarely, however, do I find situations where mechanisms have been put in place for children’s ideas, opinions, lived experience and points of view to be routinely gathered or considered.
Not listening to what they tell us they need at this age means we risk alienating them at a time in their lives when they’re looking for reassurance that trust in us and the adult world around them is worthwhile.
Through my consultations with children, they have told me that they want more of a voice in the classroom, in their homes, and in their communities, as well as at government level. They are asking us to take a sharper focus on their rights, interests, and wellbeing, and to integrate these into economic, social, and environmental policy.
This means setting up systems that seek their input and provide them with opportunities to provide feedback on experiences they have interacting with adults. It also means that when they offer their opinions and ideas, we validate their input and act on the feedback they’ve provided.
One of the biggest challenges that children have told me they face, is working out how to communicate a problem they’re having to adults. They have asked for help to express themselves when they’re going through hard times, particularly in their relationships with family and friends. This means providing them with the conditions and opportunities that make it easier for them to talk to us about how they are feeling on a regular basis.
Many children tell me they often feel as though adults dismiss their worries or don’t understand them when they do tell them what’s going on in their lives. They either view them as trivial or unimportant, or tell them not to worry too much. Children are looking for assurance when they raise concerns about future needs. They want to be taken seriously and supported in appropriate ways. They have told me they would benefit from being taught how to gain confidence in expressing their concerns, ideas, and dreams. They would like opportunities to practice conversations about these things with their peers within a school group or with their classmates through creative writing, art, music, and performance. This sounds like a very reasonable request to me and one I feel sure those who have the resources and authority to do could easily put in place.
For a snapshot view of What Matters Most to Children:
If you’re a child or young person, parent or grandparent who would like to get in touch with me, send an email to: