Strength in numbers, and crossing borders

This week, we’re focusing on the power of partnership in advocating for children and young people.

There are so many areas in our communities, families and systems where children and young people are overlooked or ignored. When we don’t keep their unique needs, rights and perspectives at the forefront of our minds, then they end up forced to fit within adult ways of thinking and conveniences.

A lot of our advocacy work (for both individual children and young people, and systemically) is reminding and challenging adults to focus on what children and young people want and need. That’s something we can all do, within our families, community spaces and workplaces – to simply make as much noise as possible, to stop children and young people from being forgotten and champion their right to buy-in on the decisions that affect their lives.

And when we’re making that noise, one of the things we see again and again is that we’re louder and stronger when we’re doing it together!

That’s why one of our passions is finding opportunities to partner with strong advocates for children and young people from across the country, as well as our international colleagues.

Shona’s been busy in this space recently – so we’ve put together an update on what she’s being doing as a member of national networks committed to promoting children and young people’s rights. 


Did you know that there are dedicated children’s commissioners, guardians and advocates in every Australian jurisdiction?

Shona is the Co-Chair – and one of 18 members – of the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Commissioners, Guardians and Advocates Group (ANZCCGA), a collective group dedicated to promoting and protecting the rights and wellbeing of children and young people across state and territory jurisdictions in Australia, as well as Aotearoa New Zealand. Drawing together dedicated child-focus and expertise, it’s a critical forum to share insights and explore opportunities to work together for real change for children and young people.

Work the ANZCCGA have come together on this year includes:

  • joint advocacy calling upon the Australian Government to make the Leaving Violence Payment available to children and young people under the age of 18 who are escaping family violence
  • joint statement on isolation in youth detention, making recommendations to all Australian governments to account for and eliminate harmful isolation practices in detention
  • successfully advocating for the establishment of a National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people – with advocacy ongoing to establish dedicated, legislated and independent commissioners for Aboriginal children and young people in each state and territory.

A few weeks ago, Shona met virtually with her ANZCCGA colleagues. Topics on the agenda included:

  • Media reporting on children and young peoplewith the ANZCCGA calling on journalists and media outlets to give careful consideration to their influence when disseminating information and use their platforms to change the narrative and empower children and young people
  • Making engagement and consultation with children and young people in legislative and policy reform a priority – not an afterthought.

To read more about what was discussed, you can check out the full joint communique here.


Shona’s also a member – one of 12 across the country – of Australia’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), established under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

When talking about OPCAT in South Australia, it’s important to say that Shona has only been administratively assigned the status of an NPM body for children and young people in youth detention in South Australia, and has no dedicated legislation or resourcing. This is not consistent with OPCAT requirements, and does not meet the intent of establishing bodies with a dedicated focus on preventing torture in places where people are deprived of their liberty.

In fact, members of Australia’s NPM recently issued a joint statement expressing deep concern and disappointment that the 2024-25 federal budget did not contain more funding to support to a nation-wide mechanism to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in detention. While it is positive to see the potential of some time-limited funding to some jurisdictions, South Australia was not one of them.

Even so, Shona dedicates the resources she can towards this important national network – and drawing on the collective knowledge and expertise of Australia’s NPM in embedding rights-based approaches to safeguarding children and young people in detention. Recently, Shona has been fortunate to participate in:

  • specialist OPCAT Training Workshop for Commonwealth, State and Territory members of Australia’s NPM, run by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Australian Human Rights Commission and the Association for the Prevention of Torture
  • the 2024 OPCAT symposium earlier this year – run by the Tasmanian National Preventive Mechanism – which brought together experts and oversight bodies from across the country to discuss contemporary human rights issues affecting people who are deprived of their liberty.

These national networks are an essential part of keeping Australian governments focused on human rights, including children’s specific rights. And, at the Guardian’s office, we are all committed to also working in partnership with local agencies, organisations and individuals to promote the rights of children and young people in care and detention!

Children and young people need, and deserve, for us to work together in this way. As Shona told us:

“One of the challenges I face in undertaking the multiple responsibilities assigned to me through legislation, is to balance the competing demands of being able to focus on the immediate direct needs of children and young people, trying to progress meaningful change at a state and national level and ensure our community can play a meaningful role in also standing up and being the ‘superheros’ for very vulnerable children.

It is my goal to reach the hearts and minds of every day South Australians to let them know, that even though its tough to hear and learn about the struggles of children and young people in our state, it is important we all pay attention – and put our ‘big people boots’ on, and get busy doing the right thing by those that need our help. Our kids need us to continue doing the good stuff, fix the broken bits of the systems and imagine better ways of doing things.”

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