25 July 2017
It is a great privilege to be entrusted to the position of Guardian for Children and Young People, an independent statutory office dedicated to promoting the best interests, and safeguarding the voices and needs, of the young South Australians who live in out-of-home-care.
I am under no illusions. This is a tough role – and a crucial one. As the mother of young adults, I’ve seen the good times and the challenges they’ve experienced as they’ve grown up in this new century. It is not an easy time to be young.
I want those children and young people for whom my office advocates to have the same things I wanted for my own children: to be cared for, kept safe, and have the opportunity to find their own unique strengths and talents. I want them to grow up to be secure in themselves and proud of who they are.
I originally trained and worked as a lawyer. Since then I have had a broad and varied career, including work on tribunals, university teaching, mediation and a term as a South Australian senator for four years. I have also campaigned for law reform and volunteered in community organisations and schools. My last (very enjoyable) volunteering gig, before starting this job, was a five week Introduction to Poetry course with year six and sevens at my local primary school!
I have been drawn to work which promotes strong communities where no-one is left behind. These days we call this ‘social inclusion’. For me, this springs from my own personal conviction that every human being is inherently valuable and equal, no matter their circumstances.
I have also had a longstanding interest in criminal justice. Since my university days I have been fascinated by the purpose of prisons and punishment in our society and possibilities for ‘second chances’. Crime prevention through ‘justice reinvestment’ – investing in communities rather than building more prisons – was a major focus of my Senate work. I am very pleased, then, that my additional responsibilities as ’Training Centre Visitor‘ will include overseeing the rights and welfare of young people detained in youth training centres.
So here I am. And I am fortunate to have joined a skilled, dedicated and compassionate staff team. From day one, they have been very clear about the work of our office: ’It’s all about the kids‘.
Every day we must remember that no child asks to end up in a situation where they need to live away from their birth family. As a society, we must only intervene in their lives to ensure their futures will be better than their pasts, so that that they will be safe, respected and receive the support and care they need to be able to thrive.
In the best of worlds, a person’s background should not dictate their destiny. It is the hallmark of a fair and compassionate society to strive to ensure that every child has the chance to live a healthy life and achieve their full potential.
A fair and compassionate society is good for all of us.
Whatever role you play in the lives of children in care, I look forward to meeting you and working with you to get the best outcomes.
Congratulations Penny Wright! Your appointment is fabulous news for children, young people and their families as well as organisations and the broader community. Your expertise and experience will benefit us all – I am heartened indeed!
An excellent choice for the role. I wish you great success, Penny.
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