Not long after the Commissioner commenced in her role as South Australia’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, she went on a tour of the state to talk with as many children and young people as she could. She wanted to hear firsthand what was going on in their lives and what they wanted her as their new Commissioner to do for them.
One of the key learnings the Commissioner had from this ‘2017 Listening Tour’ was just how few opportunities children and young people are given to have their voices heard, particularly those in the 8-12 year age group.
To address this she initiated an annual Student Postcard initiative. It was her way of providing these children with an opportunity to tell her, their Commissioner, what matters to them most and what they would like to change about their lives if they could. The responses have been fantastic and have guided her in her efforts to ensure she is doing the best to advocate in those areas children want to see change made most.
The initiative has been well received with 336 schools participating in 2022 and more than 16,007 postcards received. This brings the total number of postcards sent to the Commissioner since the initiative commenced in 2019 to over 46,000, providing great insight into the lives of young people aged 8-12 years for researchers, academics, decision makers and professionals.
“Children in the 8-12 age group have shared their thoughts and ideas about what’s great about being a kid in South Australia, as well as what’s not. They’ve drawn fantastic pictures to illustrate their thoughts and ideas and sent me heart-warming and heart-wrenching messages that have been a mixture of insight, humour, and some sadness, many expressing their appreciation for the opportunity they’ve been given to have a voice. I now want to extend this opportunity to Early Learners.”
Due to the success of the Student Voice Postcards initiative for primary school children and at the request of many Early Year’s teachers and educators, the Commissioner for Children and Young People has decided to extend her state-wide postcards initiative to include pre-schoolers.
The initiative is designed to engage pre-school and kindergarten aged children in a simple activity that exposes them to what it means to have a voice and be heard. This fits with the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) child-rights approach and promotion of children’s active citizenship. As highlighted in the introduction of the EYLF, early years educators are guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in their daily practice, including recognising the right of children to ‘be active participants in all matters affecting their lives.’
This year the Commissioner is asking pre-school children to draw a picture of their favourite place and tell her why it’s their favourite.
“The Early Years Postcards will give South Australian preschool children a unique opportunity to experience what it’s like to share what’s on their minds with me, their Commissioner, through a simple activity that supports their voice and agency. Being able to speak up and express their opinions is a core right of children as stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. To exercise this right children need to know about it, and adults need to not dismiss it.” Commissioner Helen Connolly.
So far completed postcards have been received from 70 pre-school aged children, representing four preschool/childcare centres. Children have drawn pictures of their homes and having their parents and siblings there, or playing games. Others have chosen to draw something at their preschool or childcare centre, such as the waterpump or the playdough table. Many children’s favourite places were outdoors – the playground (especially the slide), the sandpit, the bike track, the beach, or the park. Others drew pictures of their nanna’s house, or the shops and McDonald’s.
If you are an Early Year’s teacher in SA, you should have received an email at the start of school Term 2, inviting you to support the new initiative. It included a link to a downloadable copy of the postcard artwork and came with a request to support pre-school children to complete the task, scanning their finished responses and emailing them back to the Commissioner.
Initially there was a closing date for the End of Term 2. But this has since been removed. Completed postcards can be returned at any time.
Click on the button below to download the Early Years Postcard instructions and activity sheet in portrait and landscape layouts so children can choose which layout suits them best. We look forward to receiving completed postcards at 251 Morphett Street, Adelaide 5000.
Read an article about the initiative here.