Author:
Department of Families, Fairness and Housing
Date:
15 Aug 2022

Client voice

The Client voice framework for community services (2019) sets the vision for how the department and the community services sector seeks, listens to and acts on the client voice. This includes listening to and acting on the voices of children and young people.

Children and young people have unique and valuable insights, knowledge and skills. When we design, implement and evaluate services, policies and programs with children and young people, they are more likely to be safe, effective, connected and person-centred. This means better outcomes for children, families and the wider community.

Young voices

Young voices is an extension of the Client voice framework. It offers guidance, information and tools to support safe and meaningful child and youth participation.

Young voices supports organisations and staff to:

  • plan how to engage with children and young people
  • understand the principles and important things to think about
  • run participation activities – from consultation to co-design
  • see examples of good practice through case studies and lessons learned.

We are committed to seeking, listening to and acting on the voices of people with lived experience of the community services system. We recognise that unless we truly listen to the voices of children and young people, we can’t fully understand what they need and know how to respond to keep them safe and to make sure supports are of the highest quality.

We also recognise there are many leaders in child and youth participation practices. Young voices is a platform to share good practice, promote the voices of children and young people – particularly those experiencing disadvantage – and contribute to continuous improvement in child and youth participation.

If you have any feedback or would like to add a resource or good practice case study, contact the Community Services Quality and Safety Office via email: CSQSO@dffh.vic.gov.au.

What to consider when running a participation activity

There are things you need to think about when you want to run a participation activity with children and young people. To find out more, see:

What to consider when running a participation activity-young voices
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Run a participation activity

Before you start

  • Review the important considerations.
  • Get any necessary preliminary approvals.

It's about young people and adults working together to suss out what the problems are, what needs to be done and then working together to make real changes.

Young person, Commission for Children and Young People empowerment and participation plan, 2021

Read the following information and use the steps for meaningful participation with children and young people.

Principles of meaningful participation

The principles of safe and meaningful participation with children and young people.

Principles of meaningful participation

  • Children and young people have human rights, including the right to make decisions and to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.
  • Hearing and acting on the voices of children and young people is essential to their safety and for the quality and safety of services.
  • Children and young people have experience and expertise to share.
  • Seeking, listening to and acting on the voices of children and young people is part of everyone’s role.
  • The voices of children and young people are diverse. All children and young people are valued and respected, and their differences appreciated.
  • The voices of children and young people lead to positive action.
  • Children and young people know how they can participate and are engaged in ways that make sense to them.
  • Participation promotes a strong voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.
  • Children and young people are informed and understand what it means to participate and how their participation will link to outcomes.
  • Child and youth participation is ethical, accessible, inclusive, safe and culturally, linguistically and religiously appropriate.
  • Participation is sought from children and young people with lived experience of disadvantage.

We are the experts in our own lives. Government has to stop assuming that they know what's best for us. You can't design a service if you have no idea what it's like to be in care.

Young person, aged 16, Voice of the Child project
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Our commitments to children and young people

Consider the following commitments when running a participation activity.

Our commitments

Safety

  • Participation is underpinned by a child rights approach in which children and young people have a fundamental right to participate.
  • We recognise and treat children and young people as experts in their own lives and experiences.

Privacy, confidentiality and mandatory reporting

  • We uphold children and young people’s rights to privacy and confidentiality.
  • We support children and young people to understand their rights.
  • Children and young people understand when and why information is shared about them.
  • We support children and young people to exercise choice about their participation, including the choice to not participate or to withdraw at any point.
  • Participation is voluntary and not unduly influenced by adults.
  • Children and young people understand how the information they share will be used and if it will be shared with others and why.
  • We make sure that consent is explained, in ways that are accessible and make sense to children and young people.
  • Informed consent is sought through formal processes well in advance of participation so that children and young people have the time and space to give consent.

Empowerment

  • We make every effort to deal with power imbalances and to support children and young people to exercise their rights, build confidence and support meaningful participation.
  • Children and young people are given appropriate information to meaningfully participate.
  • Opportunities to co-design and co-deliver are considered first, to amplify the voices of children and young people to make the positive change they desire.
  • We value the time, effort and contributions that children and young people make.
  • Valuing, hearing and acting on children and young people’s voices is a shared and ongoing responsibility.
  • The exchange is mutually beneficial and allows participants to determine what benefit looks like for them.

Diversity and inclusion

  • Every child and young person has an equal opportunity to participate regardless of age, language, culture, religion, disability, gender, sexuality, lived experience, location or any other factor that may impact them being heard.
  • We honour the unique needs, histories, experiences and life circumstances of children and young people.
  • We use appropriate child-centred approaches and methods that respect the diverse contexts that shape young people’s lives and identities.
  • We actively identify and address barriers to ensure we engage children and young people with a lived experience of socioeconomic disadvantage.
  • Our communication is accessible and that is defined by the individual children and young people involved.
  • Emotional understanding is a cornerstone of the engagement and staff appreciate and attend to intersectionality with care.

Respectful communication

  • Our communication is honest and clear and occurs with participants before, during and following the participation in ways that are responsive to their needs.
  • Participants understand why and how they will participate, if there are limits to their participation and what the impact of their participation has been.
  • Children and young people understand what to do if they don't agree with a decision or don't feel heard.
  • We support children and young people to be heard by listening to what makes participation accessible and safe for them. We attend to these needs before, during and after participation.
  • We foster a workplace culture of self-reflection and continuous improvement.
  • We ensure children and young people have opportunities to give feedback in ways that are accessible and engaging to them, and to partner in evaluation.
  • We communicate with children and young people about the impact of their feedback.

Training and support

  • We support children and young people to be heard by listening to what makes participation accessible and safe for them. We attend to these needs before, during and after participation.
  • We foster a workplace culture of self-reflection and continuous improvement.
  • We ensure children and young people have opportunities to give feedback in ways that are accessible and engaging to them, and to partner in evaluation.
  • We communicate with children and young people about the impact of their feedback.

Viability

  • We endeavour to embed participation in core business so that voices of children and young people shape policy development and service design, now and into the future.
  • Organisational supports, authorisation, structures and resources are in place to support participation work.
  • We use evidence to guide good participation practice.
  • We ensure children and young people have the freedom to express their views and share their experiences in different ways, according to their age and stage of development, cognitive ability and preferences.
  • Staff work to incorporate any contributions – verbal, artistic or otherwise – into policy insights.
  • Wherever possible, we use partnerships rather than build new events and structures.
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Step 1: Do a readiness assessment

Consider how the activity will benefit the participants, if you will include lived experience facilitators, and how you will create a safe space.

Use the following tool to assess how ready you and your team are to conduct an effective and meaningful participation activity:

Readiness assessment tool for child and youth co-design
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We are testing this form and would welcome any feedback via email: CSQSO@dffh.vic.gov.au.

Consider whether your team has the mix of personal and professional qualities, skills, experience and qualifications to run a participation activity.

You have to trust 'em, man, or why would you talk to them?...You gotta trust that they'll treat you right, that they will stand up for you and that they have the power to do something about it.

Young person, CCYP Empowerment and participation guide, 2021
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Step 2: Plan the project

Identify the scope and purpose of the project, determine if you need ethics approval and set up an independent complaints process so children and young people can raise issues as they arise.

Purpose and scope

Decide scope and purpose. You can do this by:

  • reviewing available literature
  • having preliminary discussions with children and young people to ensure your understanding of the issue is informed by their views and experiences and that the project is something they want to do.

We flip power dynamics by putting young people in the driver's seat of this work.

YLab in the We Hear YOUth project, Loddon

Assess mindsets and assumptions

Check the project team's intentions for the project and whether they hold any negative assumptions about engaging children and young people.

Check your own assumptions about the ‘expert’ mindset, remembering that children and young people are experts in their own lives and experiences.

Determine level of participation

Determine the variety of ways you will seek the views of children and young people.

A multi-layered approached can help you engage with people who are often harder to reach.

Use the IAP2 (International Association for Public Participation) public participation spectrum to help you decide what level of participation your project needs, such as:

  • Involve: work directly with the public throughout the process
  • Collaborate: partner with the public in each aspect of the decision
  • Empower: give final decision-making power to the public.

Ethics approval

Determine if you will need formal ethics approval.

While you always need to behave ethically, you may not need formal ethics approval for your participation activity.

Assess staff capability

Consider the core functions and associated skillsets needed to work effectively with children and young people.

Consider ways to build or find this capability.

Establish independent processes

Establish an independent complaints mechanism so that children and young people can confidentially and comfortably raise issues at any point in the project. For example, this could be through a team or staff member not connected to the participation work. Ensure there are ways for children and young people to provide feedback anonymously if possible.

Plan for how you will evaluate the participation and how this will happen with young people.

Determine project measures of success:

  • Is participation meeting the needs and expectations of participants?
  • Is participation producing better outcomes in the service or policy making process? If not, why not?

Address power imbalance

Determine how you will address any power imbalances.

Strategies may include:

  • Engaging facilitators who share a lived experience with participants.
  • Ensuring language and information are appropriate for age, language, culture and development
  • Ensuring participants have enough time and support to express themselves
  • Considering the physical environment and whether the location, building or setting is intimidating
  • Having the facilitator share some relevant and appropriate details about their own life.

Set up project management and governance

Establish appropriate project management and governance arrangements.

Co-planning and involvement in project governance arrangements can help ensure the views of children and young people are adequately reflected at each stage of the project.

Create terms of reference for the participation that outline:

  • scope of the project
  • roles and responsibilities
  • boundaries
  • privacy and confidentiality
  • skills participants will need
  • means of communication
  • time commitment
  • how conflicts of interest and complaints will be managed.
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Step 3: Engage the children and young people

Decide how you will recognise and reimburse participants, set guidelines for communication, identify opportunities for training or mentoring, and more.

Recognition, reimbursement and remuneration approach

Determine the approach to recognition, reimbursement and remuneration.

All children and young people should be recognised for their participation and contribution.

Include information on the approach and how participants will be recognised for their involvement in relevant documentation such as advertisements, expressions of interest, position descriptions and terms of reference.

Ensure children and young people are aware of and agree to the approach before agreeing to participate.

Communication

Child safety must be upheld in communication. Establish guidelines for communication and help set appropriate boundaries for staff and participants, including how children and young people interact with each other.

Choose ways of communicating with children and young people that suit their needs and lifestyles:

  • Ask children and young people what works for them.
  • Use plain English that is free of jargon.
  • Ensure your communications are inclusive and accessible to all participants.
  • Text messaging or social media (including using visuals) can be more effective than emails, letters and phone calls.

Tell the children and young people:

  • the purpose and the process of the participation
  • the skills needed to participate
  • the tangible outcomes expected
  • how their views and feedback will be used.

Make sure the children and young people understand their choices in participating, including that it is voluntary and that they can opt out at any time without giving a reason.

Decide training and support needs

Decide:

  • what kinds of support children and young people will need to participate effectively
  • what opportunities for training, mentoring or skills development may be possible during the participation activity.

Children and young people generally need support to work with government and other organisations, particularly if they are being asked to contribute to policy issues rather than reflecting on their own experiences. It might be technical support to contribute to policy issues or supports for wellbeing due to the emotional labour required to share their own experiences.

Children and young people may look for or be given opportunities for training or mentoring. Building the capacity of young people to participate in a way that is meaningful is strongly aligned with the IAP2 (International Association for Public Participation) aspiration for public participation ‘to be empowering for participants’.

Diversity and inclusion methods

Determine what methods you will use to ensure you recruit children and young people from diverse backgrounds.
For example, you may recruit through:

  • youth organisations
  • service providers
  • school, TAFE or early childhood centres
  • the Victorian Youth Congress and Youth Parliament

Social media – if young people are sharing their views on these platforms and other advertising.

Consider how you will ensure these approaches to recruitment are accessible to all, including children and young people with disabilities.

Engagement and recruitment model

The model you choose will depend on the:

  • nature of the work – including project timelines and funding available
  • level of participation needed (ranging from one-off consultations to more in-depth, longer-term engagement – refer to the IAP2 participation spectrum)
  • project team’s experience and confidence in working with children and young people.

Possible models include:

  • recruit using an expression of interest process or advertisement
  • use existing channels (like youth advisory groups)
  • partner with a youth agency or organisation
  • outsource to a youth agency or organisation.
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Step 4: Plan for participation activity

Include children and young people in the design of the activity, use trained facilitators and follow the principles for meaningful participation.

Co-plan and co-design

Include children and young people in the planning and design of the participation activity.

Participation is more likely to be effective if it is co-planned with a small group of children and young people.

Seek advice from children and young people on age-appropriate, creative and engaging activities. Ask children and young people what helps them to participate and have their say.

When working with young children, consider inviting a specialist, parent or carer to co-plan.

Consider input from people with participatory experience, such as youth organisations, academic facilitators and teachers but ensure young people's voices are prioritised.

For co-design resources, visit:

Other useful resources

Engage trained facilitators

Engage trained facilitators with experience working with children and young people for your participation activity.
Children and young people may respond more positively to facilitators who are closer to them in age or experience (or both).

If you know the facilitator is disabled, you feel a lot safer disclosing how you're feeling because they understand where I'm coming from.

Member of the YDAS COVID-19 Working Group

You can find trained youth facilitators from organisations such as:

Consider ways to engage young people who have previously been participants as facilitators. This is a great opportunity for young people and helps ensure facilitators who are connected and familiar with the process.

Information, training and support needs

Consider and arrange the participants’ information, training and support needs.

Children and young people should receive information before participation on:

  • purpose and method of participation
  • who may be in the room during activities
  • roles and responsibilities
  • training and supports including what peak bodies like YACVic (Young Affairs Council Victoria) and CREATE Foundation offer
  • recognition, reimbursement and remuneration
  • processes for providing feedback.

Information needs to be given in a timely manner and aligned with participants’ preferences for how they wish to receive it. Ask participants when they register or apply how they want to be communicated with and what access needs they have. Make sure you act on their responses.

Consider how you'll make sure these are accessible to all, including children and young people with disability.

Give participants an inclusion checklist or similar to understand the supports they need – for an example, see PilotLight’s Inclusion form page.

Also consider:

  • training the young person has received through school or involvement in extra-curricular, youth advocacy or professional roles
  • what training may be needed to fulfil roles and responsibilities relating to the project
  • how you will meet people’s psychological needs
  • how you will meet people’s accessibility needs
  • what supports participants may need to have advocates or support workers attend with them.

Design for meaningful participation

Follow the principles for meaningful participation.

Review the important considerations for successful participation:

What to consider when running a participation activity-young voices
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Use the resources on Health.vic’s Designing for Diversity page.

Use the YDAS (Youth, Disability, Advocacy Service) Together: Building an inclusive youth sector online resource.

Consider the timetables of the children and young people and ensure you give them plenty of notice. Where possible, let the young people involved in the project decide meeting times and communication processes.

Avoid one-off consultations that don’t let children and young people build a relationship with the project team and provide deeper insights into the content.

Think about the communication needs of the participants and whether visuals (charts, graphs and pictures) will work better to convey messages.

Ask children and young people what sort of icebreakers and warm up games they enjoy.

Consider creative ways to capture discussions and insights like engaging a graphic recorder.

Use the tools available in the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) Empowerment and participation guide including:

  • warm up games (pages 60 to 61)
  • ‘V is for victory’ (pages 58 to 59) as an assessment and planning tool for any topic children, young people or organisations want to explore.

The CCYP Empowerment and participation guide is available on the CCYP website.

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Step 5: Set expectations during participation

Make sure your activity is safe for children and young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and create a physically and emotionally safe space for all participants.

Set expectations

Set expectations by:

  • checking participants’ understanding of the purpose of the participation activity
  • letting participants set their own expectations
  • introducing people – their roles and responsibilities
  • letting participants ask questions
  • confirming the language participants want to use and recognise the importance of this in certain spaces
  • discussing people's preferences for identify-first versus person-first language. For example, 'disabled person' or 'person with disability'.
  • referring to the steps on establishing a group agreement for how participants will work together and create a safe space to talk in the CCYP Empowerment and participation guide (pages 61 to 62).

The safe and supportive environment has been so special for me and my growth and my future.

YDAS COVID-19 working group member

Make sure engagement activities are physically, psychologically and emotionally safe.

If events are being held face-to-face, venues should be accessible and where children and young people feel comfortable. If government buildings must be used, make sure they’ re warm and welcoming to children and young people. Explain ahead of time what participants can expect when they arrive, for example if there’ll be security checks and lifts.

Remember that many of the children and young people who are being engaged are likely to have experienced trauma or challenging emotional circumstances. Wherever possible, design the participation with the children and young people involved.

It’s critical that:

  • participants are made aware – before their involvement – of anything that could be triggering
  • you include content warnings and encourage participants to do the same
  • psychological supports are available at workshops
  • children and young people have access to trusted support people before and after engagement
  • information about boundaries and sharing of personal information is given to and understood by children and young people
  • children and young people can bring a support person with them
  • children and young people know they can bring things that help them feel safe and comfortable (like stim or fidget toys) and can wear clothes they feel comfortable in the beginning of any workshop or event is dedicated to creating a safe space
  • events are culturally safe and responsive.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people, consider partnering with an Aboriginal organisation to deliver the event.

Refer to the CCYP tip sheet on cultural safety for Aboriginal children.

Organisations like the Centre for Multicultural Youth can give guidance on hosting a culturally safe event for young people from multicultural backgrounds.

Refer to the CCYP tip sheet on safety of children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Check in with participants on their level of comfort in the space before, during and after participation and be prepared to make changes if needed.

Pay careful attention to specific needs and have a process for getting feedback so improvements can be made next time.

Children with a disability may need additional care and protection to ensure they are safe. Refer to the CCYP tip sheet on safety of children with a disability.

Minimise the number of adults in the room so that participants don’t feel scrutinised or outnumbered.

Remind participants of the independent complaints mechanism.

Adopt a sensitive approach – one that considers and builds on local cultural practices and is guided by the preferences and beliefs of the children and young people involved.

Use the tools in the CCYP Empowerment and participation guide.

Listen and be responsive

The ones who are most affected are the ones who’ll have the most to say and the most to get out of it… You should make sure the quieter youth, the ones who are dealing with the toughest stuff, the ones who’ll get a lot out of it – make sure they are involved.

Young person, CCYP Empowerment and participation guide, 2021

Create an environment that empowers participants to engage safely and openly:

  • Be there to listen not lead.
  • Ask open questions that come from a place of genuine curiosity.
  • Let participants identify and speak about the things that are meaningful to them.
  • Ignore preconceptions and listen deeply for the emotions behind the words.
  • Allow time and space for participants to find their words in their own way and support them to resolve any frustrations at not having the right words the first time.

Engage with the whole person:

  • Children and young people will view the issue, policy or service as one aspect of their lives and not their whole life.
  • Let participants talk about other connected parts of their lives, showing respect for each child or young person as a unique individual who you would like to really understand.
  • Be flexible and change your plans if needed.

Always read the room and check in with participants:

  • Be open to abandoning a carefully planned session if it is not working for everyone or if strong leadership emerges in the group that you could be using better.
  • Check that the children and young people are speaking more than the adults in the room.
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Step 6: After participation

Let participants know their opinions and insights were valuable, and tell them about the outcome of the activity even when a solution to the issue wasn't achieved.

Value participants

Be open and transparent. Tell participants how valuable their involvement was and whether there are any ways they can continue to contribute. For example, online or via email if they have other ideas or want to be involved in things like the write up.

Send everyone a formal thank you soon after the participation activity.

Consider other ways to recognise contributions, such as:

  • certificates of attendance and contribution signed by an executive
  • support with how to include the activity in the young person’s CV
  • invite children and young people to be involved in future activities (such as facilitation) and including them in the planning
  • let participants know when to expect an update on the next steps and explain any risks of not meeting timeframes
  • send a summary of insights with an invitation to make corrections or improvements.

In the summary:

  • Use simple language to express what you heard from participants.
  • Ask: Did we understand properly? Did we miss anything? Would you like to add anything?
  • Note: if the review work is lengthy, it should be considered part of the hours being remunerated.

Synthesise and translate views into action

Collate all the shared insights, including any divergent perspectives.

Analyse what was captured in the participation to look for themes and key issues. These policy insights will feed into the drafting process.

Wherever possible, invite young people to help with the analysis. This may include:

  • young members on project governance groups who may be close to the policy issues and well-placed to help make sense of the insights and relate them to policy
  • individuals from the target group who have the skills to analyse input for themes
  • young people employed by the department and who have awareness of the policy.

Follow up

Follow up may include:

  • Close the loop with all the participants by letting them know what the outcomes were, even if a policy or service solution was not achieved.
  • If appropriate, consider finding a way to celebrate if the initiative was successful.
  • Tell participants if there are any opportunities for ongoing involvement in implementation planning or other activities.
  • Seek feedback from children and young people on the process – either informally or through a more formal evaluation to understand what worked and what didn’t
  • Remind children and young people of the complaints process for the project.
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Guiding frameworks

Review the guiding frameworks and policy context for child and youth engagement.

Other useful resources

Resources to help plan and run a participation activity with children or young people

Governance

Diversity, inclusion and communication

Co-design

Readiness Assessment Checklist - Young Voices
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Safe and active participation

  • Koori Youth Council's Wayipunga (supporting young people) - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth participation framework.

  • CCYP tip sheets on cultural safety for Aboriginal children, safety of children with a disability and safety of children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  • The CCYP Empowerment and participation guide – contains a variety of activities and guidance to help you plan and run your participation:
    • Participation activities – warm up games by age, ‘V is for victory’ assessment and planning tool (pages 58 to 61, Empowerment and participation guide)
    • Safety shield activities – give participants an opportunity to learn about and inform the ways they will be kept safe (pages 53 to 55, Empowerment and participation guide)
    • Identifying safe spaces tool – get feedback on how physically and emotionally safe participants feel in the environment (pages 51 to 52, Empowerment and participation guide)
    • Tailoring guide for participation of children and young people of different ages – create physically and emotionally safe and inclusive spaces (pages 62 to 73, Empowerment and participation guide).
  • Yerp online toolkit – articles, videos and practice examples to support youth participation.
  • Code of ethical practice – for the Victorian youth sector.

Training, development and networks

Trauma-informed practice

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Case studies and practice examples

Examples and case studies of activities run in partnership with children and young people

We hear YOUth

A peer interview and pathways project

This case study shows

The need to invest in young people as ‘peer interviewers’ who bring client voice into co-designed policy and services.

It also shows the following ‘principles for meaningful participation’ in practice:

  • Children and young people know how they can participate and are engaged in ways that make sense to them
  • Participation is sought from children and young people with lived experience.

About this case study

Young people living in the Loddon area identified that many young people prefer to speak with other young people when contributing their voices and views.

However, there was a lack of local, professionally trained, skilled and accessible youth peer interviewers in the Loddon area.

The Community Partnerships team engaged Thorne Harbour Health to manage the We Hear YOUth project to design and deliver accredited training in peer interviewing techniques to local young people aged 15 to 25 years.

We Hear YOUth adopted a co-design approach, ensuring training participants had a significant influence on the design and delivery of the training. Youth-focused, accredited education and training providers, Victoria University and YLab, conducted the training itself.

Thorne Harbour Health also gave participants study and wellbeing supports.

As part of the training’s supervised and supported workplace learning element, two local governments invited participants to undertake youth consultations for council’s municipal health and wellbeing 4-year plans.

On completion, the young people received a certificate of completion and reference letter.

We hear YOUth young people caricatures

Benefits

  • Loddon Area now has access to local, skilled and accredited peer interviewers.
  • We can engage these youth peer interviewers when we invite young people to contribute to future work (such as projects, policy, service design and delivery, research).
  • Increased opportunity for local projects and initiatives to be designed and delivered by youth, for youth and with youth, making them more relevant, effective and appropriate.
  • Participants reported increased confidence, and leadership and interpersonal skills.
  • Participating organisations increased their recognition of the importance of engaging meaningfully with young people by participating organisations.
  • Improved place-based delivery on the department’s Client voice framework for community services.

The young people gained work experience, leading to the following immediate outcomes:

  • Involvement in North Central Local Learning and Employment Network’s Youth Takeover project
  • 3 of the young people started a small consultancy (called Activate Youth Voice) to support organisations to better engage with young people on their needs, opinions and concerns
  • Activate Youth Voice developed principle-based criteria for accepting engagements, including that projects need to be values-based and for a clear purpose that provides genuine mutual benefit for young people who agree to be interviewed.

Success factors

  • Sharing power with young people.
  • Meaningful engagement for and with youth participants
  • Young people brought a sense of agency to the project
  • Having young people on the steering committee
  • A strong participatory model, with youth input and direction at the centre
  • Fully subsidised training so that cost was not a barrier for young people with lived experience of disadvantage.
  • Youth peer interviewers supported to develop the specific and accredited skills and knowledge needed to undertake interviews in a way that is safe, ethical and authentic for the interviewer, interviewee and the commissioning agency
  • Engaging youth-focused project partners on delivery (Thorne Harbour Health, YLab and Victoria University) and evaluation (Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (CFECFW) and the Outcomes, Practice and Evidence Network (OPEN)).

What young people say

I felt like when I shared ideas they were heard and they were respected, and I felt like I was given that space to do so, which then obviously helped a lot.
– End of project evaluation report

Download the case study

We hear YOUth
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Keep in Touch (KIT)

Youth mental health promotion initiative

This case study shows

At least two of the principles for meaningful participation:

  • Children and young people have experience and expertise to share
  • The voices of children and young people lead to positive action and outcomes.

About this case study

In 2018, over 160 young people from across the Loddon area took part in the When Life Sucks initiative. Through in-depth consultation, 20 project ideas were put forward by young people to support mental health and well-being.

In early 2019, DHHS created a project steering committee to decide which of the 20 ideas to fund. The steering committee included:

  • an unlimited number of young people from the Loddon area (ensuring youth participation throughout the project)
  • a broad range of sectors working with young people, including local government Local Learning and Employment Networks.

The young people narrowed down the original 20 ideas to 3 proposals for the steering committee. Following further consultation, a youth services caravan (KIT van) and directory app were selected to be the foundations of the project. A Youth Champions network was formed for the project to continue to engage young people.

On 8 October 2019, the Area Director, Loddon and KIT Crew officially launched the KIT van and app at an event in the Macedon Ranges Shire.

Youth participation in the project

The steering committee’s youth representatives took the lead on short-listing and interviewing candidates for a project worker and a youth-focused human-centred design (HCD) agency to facilitate the KIT van and app co-design. The youth representatives recommended a local agency, based in Kyneton.

The co-design process involved multiple rounds of prototyping and consulting with young people to ensure the KIT van and app addressed their needs and wants.

The young people’s key message was that the purpose of the KIT van would be to:

  • de-stigmatise mental health
  • provide an inclusive, culturally safe, youth-friendly space for young people to connect with their peers
  • connect young people to a broad range of mental health and wellbeing resources and information about services that cover their local area
  • deliver mental health prevention and promotion activities.

The KIT app and Facebook page should be an online place for information, connection and support.

The codesign process resulted in conceptual designs for the outreach van and mobile app and the name Keep in Touch (KIT). DHHS contracted Anglicare Victoria – North Central Region to engage a KIT coordinator to work with the KIT Crew youth champions from across the Loddon area. Steering committee members also provided significant in-kind support.

Benefits

For young people

A flexible and mobile service, co-designed by young people, that can go to them. In November 2019, KIT began engaging young people about mental health and wellbeing. Young people, community groups, schools and event organisers made bookings through the KIT app, emails and by phone.

The KIT van, coordinator and KIT Crew youth champions visited locations and youth events across the Loddon area, including the Woodend Football and Netball Club and a Kyabram Blue Light Pool Party.

The youth representatives on the steering committee gained:

  • leadership skills
  • experience of participation that they could add to their CVs
  • connections with other young people
  • the confidence to disclose personal or sensitive information such as sexual orientation or experiences with anxiety and depression.

For the department and organisations

The KIT project was a significant learning experience for steering committee members. The young people shared their knowledge about the possibilities created by using digital technology and social media.

The HCD agency, gained significant learnings from young participants about working with young people in a different way, with young people as the design clients.

The department’s initial investment has leveraged a further three years of non-government funding.

During the pandemic

KIT pivoted its rural and regional mental health promotion activities when COVID-19 began because it had been designed to be mobile and flexible.

When COVID-19 restrictions began and bookings were cancelled, KIT provided young people with online resources to build a toolkit consisting of:

  • self-care
  • ‘iso’ activities
  • stories and other way to express thoughts and emotions
  • new ways to keep in touch with friends
  • trusted sources for COVID facts
  • new online COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing services.

During 2021, the KIT van visited skate parks in Heathcote, Axedale, Eaglehawk and Newham, and an outdoor screening of Shrek in Gisborne.

Success factors

  • Sharing power with young people: DFFH Loddon Community Partnerships and steering committee representatives of other organisations shared power more than in any previous work. The steering committee put out an Expression of Interest for youth representatives, rather than seeking nominations from local governments, schools or universities. The committee also followed through on its commitment to engage the agency selected by the youth representatives.
  • Young Voices approach: valuing the voice and life experiences of young people and providing young people with opportunities to draw on their own experiences to design key elements of the project. All decisions were always made in the context of the young people’s lived experience and needs as advised by them.
  • Place-based approach: focusing on the local needs, resources and priorities of each community and engages community members as active partners in developing solutions.
  • Human-centred design (HCD): Working with a values-based human centred design agency and using human centred design methodology. Gained and maintained executive leadership’s confidence by referencing the evidence base for HCD, demonstrating that HCD is a rigorous methodology which includes client voice as a vital element.
  • Accountability to young people: the steering committee was accountable for authentically acting on the recommendations of young people. This fostered genuine codesign, using Facebook and consultation events to go back to young people with a series of prototypes to check, ‘Is this what you wanted and need KIT to be?’
  • Respecting and supporting youth representatives: Committee members committed to holding meetings at after hours venues and times, around youth representatives’ study and work commitments. On occasion and with permission, the chair also transported a youth representative from school to an evening meeting and to their hometown for a steering committee meeting – more than 2 hours round trip.

What young people say

The best people to connect with young people is other young people.

One of the best parts of helping out and consulting was knowing that my passions for mental health were shared not only by other young people but… everyone involved in the kit project as well. I never felt like I wasn’t listened to. All my opinions were taken on board and it was really just a good experience to feel like I was really doing something to reduce the stigma of mental health.

The co-design element of KIT is a huge success, that the project has been able to effectively work with young people throughout the whole project.

KIT has supported me to be more confident in myself, more confident in my community and more confident in voicing my community’s views.

KIT Crew at an event engaging young people about mental health and wellbeing

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Better Futures practice development training

This case study shows

Young people have valuable experience and expertise to share.

About this case study

The Better Futures practice development training is co-produced and presented by members of the Transitions from Care Youth Expert Advisory Group (YEAG) and staff from the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL). The training is given to Better Futures practitioners working with young people transitioning from care in Victoria.

The YEAG, which is made up of young people with care experience, was established to ensure the voice and expertise of young people with lived experience informed the Better Futures and Home Stretch initiatives.

The YEAG gives government advice, feedback and recommendations to inform policy and program development. YEAG members are also involved in co-producing and presenting at the Better Futures state-wide induction training, Better Futures communities of practice and sector forums. The YEAG is supported by CREATE Foundation.

Benefits

Having the training co-produced and delivered by young people (YEAG members) and BSL meant that:

  • The design and delivery of the training was strongly shaped by the lived experience of young people
  • YEAG members advocated for the topics they wanted included in the training
  • YEAG members nominated the topics they wanted to co-present
  • BSL gave advice on safe delivery of topics, such as boundaries during personal experience storytelling
  • YEAG members could draw on the experience for future employment opportunities and use BSL staff as referees.

Success factors

YEAG members participated in all planning meetings, contributed ideas and materials to include in the training and were part of the decision-making at every stage from design and development to delivery.

YEAG members took on valued roles, addressed issues that were relevant to them and influenced real outcomes. Meaningful involvement of young people has set a new standard in training and showcases Advantaged Thinking Better Futures practice framework in action.

To ensure young people were adequately and appropriately prepared to co-produce and deliver the training, YEAG members completed CREATE Foundation’s Speak Up (SUP) program. Through the SUP program, YEAG members were supported to develop their advocacy, leadership and public speaking skills and learn more about the broader care system.

BSL and CREATE Foundation helped negotiate clear boundaries and expectations with all involved before training to ensure:

  • Confidentiality of young people’s stories and non-personal questions from participants
  • Appropriate handling of disclosure of traumatic events and understanding of how to sensitively move a discussion along
  • Understanding that one person’s traumatic story could trigger others.

What participants say

'Love hearing the lived experiences of A and T and getting their insight. Thank you.

‘Would have loved some more experiences from young people about what works and what doesn't.

‘Love that T and A were able to facilitate.‘

‘It was great to hear from A, having someone there to put a lived experience lens was helpful to how we can improve our practice.

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Employing lived experience consultants as members of a project team

Improving care in Victorian residential services initiative

This case study shows

The importance of engaging lived experience consultants (LEC) as members of the core project team and the factors that are making this model a success.

Who's involved?

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About the initiative

The Improving Care in Victorian Residential Services initiative is a partnership between the Community Services Quality and Safety Office (CSQSO), the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and Safer Care Victoria (SCV).

It aims to improve residential care (resi care) so that children and young people:

  • feel safe
  • have stability
  • are connected to their culture and family (particularly for Aboriginal children)
  • are given education and life skills to support their future aspirations.

Part of the initiative is testing if improvement methodology can make a positive difference for children and young people living in resi care. The initiative is also about building improvement science capability to support similar approaches in other parts of the community services system.

Eleven improvement teams from community services organisations and operational areas in West division who provide resi care or placement services are working on small changes in resi care that are being tested and refined through the plan study do act (PDSA) cycle.

The core team leading the initiative is made up of 3 LECs (who are employed by the project) and 5 staff from the three partner organisations.

On a day-to-day basis, all members of the core project team have a role in:

  • Coaching calls – each improvement team is supported by improvement coaches who meet with them regularly to help with the PDSAs, data collection and engagement of children and young people. All teams also come together fortnightly for a ‘coaching call’ with each other to share updates, wins and challenges and to dive a bit deeper into aspects of the improvement methodology.
  • Team huddles – regular catch-ups between individual improvement teams and their coaches. These are an opportunity to informally support and coach the whole team or members of the team through their specific changes.
  • Workshops – bring together all teams for intensive teaching and reflection on the work undertaken as well as an opportunity to think about building skills to prepare for the next phase of work.

Benefits

Having LECs as part of the core team has benefits across the board – for the LECs themselves, the department, the initiative and for the resi care settings and the young people who live in them.

For lived experience consultants

  • opportunities to learn about new projects and ways of working
  • opportunities to meet new people, build networks and work experience
  • paid work.

For the department and the initiative

  • Improved approaches and outcomes through being able to test ideas and methods (such as survey questions and approaches to consultation) before they are rolled out to young people living in resi care.
  • Better designed and developed communications resources, project materials and plans that are much more suited to the audience (young people in resi care).
  • Networking and connections in the community services sector that the department doesn’t have. The lived experience consultants are in the community, working in a range of different spaces, having contact with people and other projects and initiatives. They bring this, as well as their lived experience to the work.
  • Improvements to culture and ways of working. Having LECs ‘in the room’ and involved throughout holds everyone to account. It improves communication and the way people conduct themselves. There is less jargon, less assumptions and more positive and authentic input and interactions.

For residential care settings and residents

Potential for:

  • better placement
  • a new ‘home profile’ to better capture information that matters to children and young people and in ways that inform and influence placement decisions
  • safer home environment with changes that relate to night-time routines, handovers, ‘about me’ profiles and family contact
  • a positive impact on young people in resi care because of their involvement.

Success factors

Openness, care, understanding and advocacy

  • open to involving young people in every step of the project.
  • open to thinking in different ways.
  • department staff who advocate for other opportunities for the LECs beyond the project.
  • department staff with the care and understanding to find out what the LECs’ passions and interests are so that the opportunities align with the LECs’ own priorities.
  • creating a regular time on a Friday for an optional team check-in that could be about wellbeing or anything to do with the project.

Strong communication

  • Establish shared understanding of terms such as ‘co-design’ and ‘consultancy’ where previously members had different understandings.
  • Have some regular structures in place for communication (such as the ‘Friday check-in’) but be flexible to enable plenty of informal communication using various channels (such as e-mail, text messages, phone calls and Teams chats). This allows team members to support one another when and how it’s needed.

Clearly defined roles with the flexibility to evolve the way of working

  • Begin with clearly defined roles as a foundation for safe participation.
  • Be open to adapting ways of working to best suit the people and actions involved.

I think it did grow organically. Of course, there were certain times when we allocated tasks to certain people. In terms of learning the style, it sort of came as we built that relationship up and built that rapport.

Lived experience consultant

Lived experience is central to all aspects of the work

The input of the lived experience consultants into the design and delivery of the project means the approaches are more likely to be a good fit with the young people living in resi care and to be successful.

As well as the lived experience consultants, young people living in resi care inform every step along the way.

Funding

Appropriately funding the project shows commitment to lived experience expertise, roles and input, and enables suitable remuneration of LECs.

‘Leave your role at the door’

  • Ignore hierarchies and recognise the value of each person’s input

Once we come together, we’ve all gotta be seen as equals. You can’t be trying to patronise someone. You can’t be looking at it from “oh, I’m a senior manager so I know that this isn’t going to work”. Cause you’re not gonna get anywhere. It’s gonna create barriers. So when you come together, you’re all on the same playing field. You’re all coming with something different but you’re there as equals. And your input is your input and it needs to be valued by everyone there.

Lived experience consultant

What people said

My role in the core team is to bring my lived experience and to share a perspective on what I think would work and how I think we’re going – sharing different ideas based on my experience within other projects and my lived experience – LEC

So often we go off reports or policy… and we try to base it on them. I feel like having that lived experience really brings forward what it’s like from the other side. What does the young person see it as? How do they think the system’s working? I’m not saying that you dismiss your policy and all the reports that you’ve read but if you put both together, you get a much better and much clearer picture of how to move forward – LEC

The reason we have the lived experience consultants is that reality check. Cause we can go off into this very fanciful, policy-type or project thinking and it’s those moments of “stop what you’re doing, you’re going the wrong direction. You really need to think about the places and spaces that this work is going to be happening in” – DFFH project team member

It’s really good to learn how different departments are working, how different community organisations are getting involved. I find that really positive for myself – LEC

People will have these ideas and it’s all about testing it… in a smaller group. You’re still taking a risk but… you have that room to improve before you take it out there. Because once you take it out there, it’s very hard to re-engage someone when it doesn’t go well the first time – LEC.

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Creative ways to reach young people with social media

Young people embrace technology and communicate in new ways. Government needs to change how it reaches out to young people to hear from a representative range of young voices.

About this case study

Young people tell us they want to use social media as one of the main ways to share their views and to hear from government.

In 2020, as part of development of the new Victorian youth strategy, the Office for Youth trialled the use of social media in two creative campaigns:

  1. ‘tell us about your hero’ online stories
  2. first ever Victorian Government use of TikTok as an engagement tool by creating TikTok challenges.

Tell us about your hero

Young people were asked to describe their hero, giving insight into young people’s values and priorities.

Young graphic designer, Mick McCaffrey (mickmac_design) illustrated a team of five heroes (based on character design by HM Design) that was inspired by and reflects the stories young people shared.

The hero team includes:

  • The Teacher – he fights for education
  • The Activist – they fight for equality
  • The Grandma – she fights for justice and the environment
  • The Mum – she fights for inclusion
  • The Teenager – he fights for physical and mental health
Meet your hero team - brightly coloured caricatures

TikTok challenges

Young Victorian influencers on TikTok were engaged to share two TikTok challenges designed to provide insight into their challenges, hopes and dreams.

Challenge 1: #DayInMyLife, invited young people to record their day with snapshots across different aspects of their lives including:

  • ‘My People’
  • ‘My Commute’
  • ‘My Studies’
  • ‘My Work’
  • ‘My Self-Care’

Challenge 2: #YouthVisionfortheFuture, called on young Victorians to express their goals for the future, including career and lifestyle goals, or social causes

For an example of the second challenge, see ItsLucindasWorld’s Tiktok video.

Benefits

Online platforms support engagement that:

  • is accessible to a wide range of young people
  • can happen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, when face-to-face engagement opportunities were limited or non-existent
  • is less daunting to many young people than participating in a face-to-face forum or preparing a formal written submission
  • is creative and enables young people to express themselves in ways that suit them.

Success factors

Young people were invited to join the conversation in ways that make sense to them, on the issues that matter most to them and in ways that were relatable:

  • asking young people to tell us about their hero draws on the popularity of superheroes in youth culture (see, for example, the Marvel Cinematic Universe)
  • asking young people to share ‘a day in the life of’ and ‘their vision for the future’ are ways to find out more about young people’s experiences and goals or aspirations in a way that’s relatable and connected to their everyday life.

Young people being engaged in their own spaces rather than being asked to step into spaces that are traditionally used by government for consultation which may be unfamiliar or not easily accessible.

Engagement that produces creative outcomes that resonate with many young people and more accurately represent their voices. Creativity and fun are not often driving premises of government consultation strategies but are important elements of making engagement appealing.

Lessons

While the youth strategy consultation was a great opportunity to use TikTok as a platform, more work needs to be done:

  • to understand how to use this channel effectively as an engagement tool
  • to support videos to reach greater numbers of people
  • encourage engagement from target demographics.

The Office for Youth considers that, at this stage, TikTok is more effective as a communication tool with young people rather than as an engagement tool for two-way engagement and conversation.

The use of TikTok ‘influencers’ in the TikTok challenges was a key strategy to increase the reach of the campaign. More exploration can be done in targeting specific audiences through appropriate influencers (for example, opportunity to engage the Premier’s new TikTok account).

The hero campaign proved to be a creative and fun activity, resonating well with a younger demographic.

Online and social media activities support wider reach to young people who have access to mobile phones and relevant digital technologies. Such engagement strategies should be coupled with appropriate methods of engagement to reach young people who do not have such access or preferences.

What young people say

  • 57 per cent of young people who responded to a youth strategy consultation survey want to have a say on issues affecting them via social media.
  • 78 per cent want to receive information via social media.

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Refugee minor program

Orphaned refugee children who have recently arrived in Victoria as unaccompanied humanitarian minors can get help

This case study shows

The importance of engaging in a way that gives young people control (understanding that loss of control is central to the experience of trauma).

About this case study

Orphaned refugee children who have recently arrived in Victoria as unaccompanied humanitarian minors can get help through the Refugee Minor Program.

The Refugee Minor program has a commitment to incorporating the voices of children and young people in all elements of its service. For example, children and young people:

  • must be present at their annual case planning meeting
  • must sign off their plan before it can progress through the CRIS system
  • can include their thoughts in the ‘My views’ section of the case plan – this must be completed before the case plan can be signed off
  • complete an exit interview when they leave the program.

As part of a rigorous approach to evaluation and quality, the Refugee Minor program made a commitment that any improvements suggested by children and young people would be implemented.

The New York University School of Public Policy was asked to assess the program’s evaluation criteria and quality improvement materials to see if the voices of children and young people were being heard in the best way. The feedback was positive but identified two key actions that could improve the way program evaluations incorporated their voices and perspectives:

  • Start by asking children and young people, ‘What do you want to tell us?’
  • Run shorter exit interviews with clients – the standard time of 30 minutes was considered too long.

Benefits

Participation is a human right and this is regularly discussed with the children and young people in the Refugee Minor Program.

Children and young people are helped to regain control of their lives by being allowed to choose:

  • who is involved in their case planning
  • when they are ready to take key steps, such as applying for citizenship
  • where case planning occurs
  • when they feel ready to leave the program.

Asking ‘What do you want to tell us?’ in exit interviews helps reframe the conversations with children and young people exiting the program, ensuring the feedback that is heard is what children and young people really want to share.

Less than 5 per cent of children and young people in the program have a breakdown in the care arrangement they are placed in.

Every young person in Year 12 in 2020 passed their Victorian Certificate of Education, with some going on to university.

Success factors

  • If children and young people cannot make a scheduled meeting that is about them, the meeting should not go ahead
  • To encourage participation, it is important to have staff from similar backgrounds to the children and young people involved in a program (for example, from Aboriginal, refugee or culturally diverse backgrounds)
  • Given that loss of control is a significant element in trauma for children and young people, practitioners need to work with children and young people to help restore their sense of control. Giving children and young people a genuine voice in decisions being made with them is key
  • Participation is acknowledged as a human right, not an optional add-on. Information regarding decision-making processes, the ability to complain and provide feedback during and after a service is encouraged
  • Entirely external and impartial review of service parameters and planning.

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Victorian Youth Congress

VYC works with government to identify and advocate for issues that matter to young people and to shape policy, programs and services that affect them

This case study shows

The voices of young people lead to action.

About this case study

The Victorian Youth Congress (VYC) is an advisory group for the Minister for Youth made up of young Victorians between 12 and 25 years of age established by the Victorian Government in 2018. By 2021, over 60 young Victorians had participated in VYC.

VYC works with government to identify and advocate for issues that matter to young people and to shape policy, programs and services that affect them. Examples include youth participation and improving young people’s mental health.

Benefits

For government

  • Direct advice and input from young people
  • Constructively challenge government to do its best
  • Fresh ideas and outside-the-box thinking
  • Example: members informed the design of public consultation for the whole of government Victorian Youth Strategy that was accessible and engaging for young people, facilitated online forums and provided recommendations for inclusion in the strategy.

For young people

  • Opportunity to influence change
  • Learning and professional development
  • Build networks and make friends
  • Examples: One member used the skills they gained to support development of a youth action plan in their local council. Another was elected to local youth council and is working to establish a network of youth councils and council advisory boards across Victoria.

Success factors

Diversity of members: the Office for Youth works with partners in the youth sector to ensure VYC represents the rich diversity of Victoria’s young people. In the 20-21 term:

  • Almost half the members were from culturally and linguistically diverse communities
  • 3 members were young Aboriginal people
  • 3 members identified as living with disability
  • A third of the members were from rural and regional areas
  • Almost half the members identified as being part of the LGBTIQ+ community.

Dedicated support from Office for Youth team (secretariat, workshops, training and mentoring)

Executive champions who seek opportunities to promote and engage VYC across government

Ministerial engagement: Minister for Youth publicly reflects on the value and contributions of VYC and attends some meetings)

Remuneration and support: members are paid fees to recognise the value of their time. Members build knowledge and skills to succeed in the role and take on leadership roles in their communities. They learn about community engagement, project management, group leadership, advocacy, and government systems and processes.

What young people say

Tom, 19 years old, Shepparton:

As young people we usually have very limited experience of how government and policy works. Through VYC we have not only been given insight into how to genuinely shape policy and create positive change but we also build up our confidence; confidence in how we can communicate with government and relevant decision-makers to speak up on the issues that affect our lives, but also how to speak up for the people around us who might have slipped through the cracks of government policy but don't know how to speak up on their own, to address the issues that impact them and our communities.

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