AYAC takes the stage at ACOSS National Conference

Earlier this week, AYAC’s Executive Director Andrew Cummings & AYAC Advocate Mel Taber were asked by ACOSS to speak on a panel at their National Conference — to celebrate the new national children’s commissioner and talk about their hopes for the role.

Unfortunately, Qantas delays meant Mel was stuck at Sydney airport and had to madly write her thoughts and experiences on her phone. Thankfully, ACOSS were able to get this in time to give Mel the last word — which proved to be a most wonderful way to end the session. Her full statement can be read below…

On the panel, Andrew talked about the AYAC-led collaboration that resulted in the announcement of the new role last year and stressed the importance of adequate funding for the commissioner to be able to properly undertake this important role.

Many issues were covered over the session, which ended up running until we were kicked out of the room! But we had just enough time to give Mel Taber, one of our amazing AYAC Advocates the last word through her written statement which read as follows:

“I wanted to share my journey of how I got to where I am today.

I was born in Wagga and grew up in a household that wasn’t the ideal environment for children. My brother and I had contact with child protective services from a young age but were “fortunate” enough not to be removed from the care of our parents. When I was 13, a desperate attempt to regain control of our lives lead to a 3-month sentence at the Yasmar detention centre in Sydney and this experience literally changed my life.

Those 3 months were the safest I had felt in my entire life and that feeling both terrified and intrigued me. It sent me on a warpath of social justice for all young people and has led me to where I am today.

I am a young person who fell through the gaps — a young person who was let down by the very same systems which were supposed to protect me. This has put me in a unique position to advocate for the rights and wellbeing of young people in Australia.

The current buzz around Australia’s performance in upholding the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has created the perfect platform – for government and non-government organisations alike – to implement strategies for bettering outcomes for young people. The appointment of a National Children’s Commissioner is an encouraging example of this!

It’s important that the commissioner advocate for the rights of all children, however she should focus particularly on Australia’s most vulnerable young people: indigenous, youth in out of home care and those living in low socio-economic families.

The National Children’s Commissioner role should be to ensure a coordinated and collaborative effort between state and commonwealth initiatives, which target the wellbeing of young people. She should ensure that young people are included and have a voice on issues and decision-making processes that impact upon them. The National Children’s Commissioner should also educate the community and raise awareness about issues affecting young people.

To progress child rights in Australia; youth participation is paramount and needs to be facilitated from all government levels. We also need to facilitate innovative strategies and programs that overcome current funding barriers and access issues for such initiatives. We also need to promote positive parenting strategies.

It’s an exciting time to be a young person in Australia!”