Penny Wright is Training Centre Visitor in addition to being Guardian for Children and Young People. Work is well underway to set up the new Training Centre Visitor (TCV) Program established by the Youth Justice Administration Act, 2016.
At the heart of the new program is the obligation to listen to and promote the best interests of children and young people in the youth justice system. A major milestone is the commencement of Travis Thomas, the first Advocate to start developing relationships with residents at the two Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC) sites.
The role of the TCV
The TCV will provide the South Australian community with independent scrutiny of the conditions and rights of children and young people in detention. This is just the sort of ‘independent oversight body’ proposed in recommendation 15.10 of the recent report of the Commonwealth Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The TCV will promote the best interests of AYTC residents by mechanisms such as an advocacy service and ongoing visiting and formal inspection programs. As is usual with independent positions of this sort, the TCV also can conduct inquiries about any matters referred by the Minister and can initiate an own motion inquiry about systemic reform.
With the recruitment of Advocate Travis Thomas to the team, work will prioritise dialogue with AYTC residents to advise them about the new TCV role and to build the relationship necessary to elicit and express their views, aspirations and needs. Dialogue with other stakeholders will continue or be established, particularly AYTC staff and management, and the community and government agencies with an interest in youth justice.
The detailed work necessary to create an operational framework for the TCV Program is underway including the development of appropriate standards, guidelines and policies. This will be done, as much as possible, to ensure that the TCV Program will work in line with international standards such as those that will come into force following Australia’s recent ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT)
Importantly, the Youth Justice Administration Act directs the TCV to respond to the needs of three particular groups of children and young people . They are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are significantly over-represented, those who are under guardianship in the child protection system and those who have a physical, psychological or intellectual disability.
The TCV program will provide accessible, credible and culturally appropriate services that reflects and promote the views of AYTC residents about their care, conditions, treatment and opportunities for development. The program also will identify opportunities for improvements and promote systemic change in the youth justice sector.
The program will comply with Parliament’s requirement that all state authorities protect, respect and seek to give effect to rights set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant international human rights instruments affecting children and young people. A focus for this will be reference to entitlements enshrined in the Charter of Rights for Youth Detained in Training Centres, also endorsed by Parliament.
The TCV Program team will host a series of information sessions in the coming months to provide further information to interested stakeholders. If you would like further information or to attend, please email or phone Belinda Lorek or Alan Fairley on 8226 8570.
This story first appeared in the Guardian’s Newsletter for February 2018, downloadable here.