To challenge the unchangeable

Written by Shona Reid

As I sit down to write to you all for the first time, I reflect that I live and work on Kaurna country and it’s an honour and a privilege to do so. I wake up every morning very grateful for the care our ancestors have taken with the land and the waters we live, work and play upon, and it is my hope I can play my part to ensure this care continues.

It is this care I also extend to the children and young people in South Australia who are unable to live at home and need to live in out-of-home-care arrangements and/or youth detention. My hope is to honour them in this role and ensure their voices, their rights and their needs are front and centre of minds and actions of those charged with their care and wellbeing.

I am very excited and honoured to be able to take on this very important and integral role for South Australian children and young people and acknowledge the work of Penny Wright as my predecessor and thank her for her fearless advocacy over the last five years.

I am an Eastern Arrernte woman and come from a family who has a long legacy of working with First Nation children, families and communities, especially in our efforts to ensure First Nation children grow strong in culture with strong families and strong communities. With my Uncle Brian Butler establishing the first South Australian Aboriginal Child Care Agency in 1978, now known as Aboriginal Family Support Services, my passions have always been interwoven with the need to advocate for the rights of children, young people and those whose voices are the hardest to hear. 

I have previously worked in the child protection system for many years, my first job being a mentor for First Nation youth at the then Metropolitan Aboriginal Youth Services. This experience has had a profound impact on my life as a professional, mother and community member.

In recent years I have sought knowledge and experiences that have extended beyond this sector. I have worked hard in South Australia and nationally in areas related to First Nation governance, leadership and reconciliation. Playing my part in building a more culturally inclusive community, where the voices of First Nation peoples are included beyond the politeness of advisory committees and superficial functions; where true inclusivity is observed through the respect for diverse, meaningful and substantive relationships and engagement is grounded in honesty, integrity, transparency and truth.

I wish to do the same here at the Office of the Guardian. I aim to examine the sector for all children and young people in care and youth detention across South Australia and play my part to ensure ‘we’ – the collective ‘we’ – have their best interests at heart. As a mum of seven, I know too well it takes a village to grow kids up well, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure the community and society in which we grow and nurture children and young people upholds their rights and protects their interests.

My ultimate goal is for all children and young people to grow well, to be able to thrive physically, emotionally, socially and mentally, so they have the opportunities, talents and skills to embark on their next journey into adulthood and whatever path that lays before them. This is no different for children and young people who are under my mandate. I am determined to ensure all children and young people unable to live with their families are extended this same care, belief, hope and love, so they are more than surviving, they are thriving.

While I settle into the new roles, I am taking stock of our current levels of involvement and the work undertaken by the Office, including following up on the recommendations from the recently released South Australian Dual Involved Project, and reinstating the community visitor program.

I am keen to understand more how the interests of First Nation children and young people are being considered in their care environments, as well as children and young people with disability – these are specifically identified as areas of interest in the legislation and something I am very passionate about.

I am looking forward to working with you all and listening intently to the children and young people and to truly hear their words so I can be the constant advocate and changemaker on their behalf. It is not lost on me the importance of my new roles; roles that have the capacity to challenge what we think is unchangeable.

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