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 (pages 61 to 62).
The safe and supportive environment has been so special for me and my growth and my future.
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.
Organisations like the Centre for Multicultural Youth can give guidance on hosting a culturally safe event for young people from multicultural 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.
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.
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.
Reviewed 14 August 2022