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Let their voices be heard is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 29th June 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> June -> Let their voices be heard is In the Spotlight

Let their Voices be Heard is a whole of community project coordinated by Bundaberg’s Child and Youth Protection Partnership (now Bundaberg’s Child, Youth & Family Alliance) in collaboration with individuals, organisations and services who work with or interface with children and young people. This project formed part of a 3 stage child and family friendly project with the longer term aim to build Bundaberg as an inclusive child and young person friendly city.

As a result of a Bundaberg Child Protection Forum held in July 2012, a collective commitment to work collaboratively with children, young people and their families within a charter framework was agreed upon. In 2013 a Multi Service Charter Working Group was established to guide the project. Their first step was the development of a local charter for the wellbeing of the children and young people of Bundaberg. The Partnership was established and the collaborative development of a formal Charter for Children and Young People’s Wellbeing emerged. The Charter was publicly adopted and over 42 community services, government agencies, businesses and schools committed to the following principles:

  1. Our local community is responsible for ensuring the wellbeing of children and young people is a priority.
  2. Children and young people in this community will grow up in a safe environment.
  3. Children and young people are valued and respected.
  4. Children and young people are able to know, explore and maintain their culture including their identity, values, gender, ethnicity, abilities, sexuality and spirituality.
  5. Children and young people are encouraged and enabled to develop healthy relationships with others.
  6. Children and young people have opportunities for their learning, social and recreational development, encouraging them to realise their potential.
  7. Children and young people are given a voice and enabled to make decisions about their lives and their contribution to our community.
  8. Families are given support and resources to nurture children and young people.

In 2014 this Charter became a key guide for activities that created the Let Their Voices Be Heard community resource. This second step in the process utilised the Charter to guide activities that led to the creation of Let Their Voices Be Heard. This community publication was designed around the Charter’s eight themes of community, wellbeing, safety, respect, identity, healthy relationships, opportunities, having a voice and support. Over 700 local children and young people across the broader Bundaberg region participated in a variety of activities within schools, childcare centres and community settings. Through these activities children and young people’s thoughts and ideas were heard around these key themes.

This resource was established through gathering, recording and presenting the views of Bundaberg’s children and young people. In order for this material to be gathered appropriately, practitioners who engaged with local children and young people developed age appropriate activities to hear and collect what the children and young people felt about issues important to them. Comments, ideas and artwork were collected from these educational and community settings. Community networks, creative and cultural groups were also on board to assist in the process of engagement.

Not only did children and young people participate in the activities on offer, the opportunity empowered them. As a result their participation provided a rich tapestry of creative and thoughtful responses and beautiful artwork that highlighted their views. The children’s words and pictures offered a glimpse into how they view their lives and community. Most commonly they denoted a world of diversity and positivity whereby they, as members of the Bundaberg region, expressed their strong connection to family and their community regardless of the obstacles and complexities they faced.

Angela Williams, community engagement practitioner and chair of the working group, highlighted what the children and young people said when asked for their views. They said: “No-one has ever asked us where we like to play in Bundaberg and what’s important to us. They usually talk to us about keeping safe. Our families and friends are really important to us and where we come from, where we belong is who we are.”

Stage three of the process was about encouraging an even wider commitment to the Charter's principles. The group sought and received broader community support and sign off including the commitment to these principles within the Bundaberg Child Youth & Family Local Level Alliance which has recently transitioned from the Bundaberg Child Protection Partnership that guided this project.

The overarching aim of Let their Voices be Heard was that Bundaberg be a community 100% committed to the safety, wellbeing and inclusion of children and young people at every level of their community from high level decision making to grass roots community development. Described by some as: ‘a herculean effort’ the project was guided by a number of agencies including: UnitingCare Community, Protect All Children Today (PACT), the Integrated Wellbeing Centre, IMPACT, Phoenix House, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services and Relationships Australia.

Let Their Voices be Heard is about ensuring the voices of children and young people in the community of Bundaberg are genuinely heard and embraced as significant in all aspects of their lives by all facets of the community. This has been a 3 stage place-based project across many agencies and key networks focussing on local children and families whilst acknowledging what is happening for them, where they are at and what their needs are. The ultimate aim is to build Bundaberg into a child and young people friendly city. Significant efforts in Bundaberg have been and continue to be dedicated towards this intent.

In 2015 Let their Voices be Heard won the Queensland Child Protection Week Community Initiative Award.

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