Youth Report – The Good Childhood Conference (Part One)

 

Youth facilitators at Conference
CREATE Youth facilitators at Conference

In a series of blog posts we will be reflecting on our new understandings of youth participation after The Good Childhood Conference, as well as some of the feedback we received from conference delegates. We will also report back on practical elements of our youth participation strategy.

Below are some of our initial reflections on the experience, specifically the usefulness of the youth consultations and social media in preparation for the conference.

In regards to youth participation at the conference, we aimed to actively include young people in the conversation about what sustains a good childhood and how we best support those who have not experienced a good childhood. (For more information on our approach, check out our Principles of Youth Participation on the Berry Street Childhood Institute website).

As you may remember, three youth consultants worked with us to engage in a broader consultation with young people about what would create a conference that was engaging and attractive to young people.

Over a two month period the youth consultants met with approximately 80 young people and gathered considerable feedback about what young people would or wouldn’t like.

Outcomes of the Youth Consultations:

  • Received feedback about what young people would or wouldn’t like at a conference,
  • Promoted the event in face-to-face sessions with young people,
  • Provided three youth consultants with workplace training,
  • Collected data to drive our youth-friendly activities,
  • Provided motivation for the youth consultants to volunteer at the conference, displaying increased leadership qualities – they also brought their friends,
  • Developed/improved relationships with community groups, schools, youth groups and clients of Berry Street,
  • Provided a barometer of youth interest in the conference.

“The youth consultation process has been a positive but challenging experience for me. It put me out of my comfort zone and has helped me improve on my networking and organisation skills.” Laura, Youth Consultant

Promoting Youth Participation
During the youth consultations young people told us that they like to communicate via social media. In the lead up to the conference an 8 week social media strategy was planned in order to promote numerous speaker profiles, interesting topics and reminders about the conference on Twitter and Facebook. Information about youth scholarships offered was posted regularly.

To provide some idea, detailed below are the most popular (shared and/or ‘Liked’) Facebook posts on the Berry Street Childhood Institute page in the lead up to the conference:
789 – Muriel Bamblett August 2013
452 – Youth scholarships announced September 2013
419 – Conference post after day one October 2013
165 – Launch of the conference program August 2013
158 – Kaff-iene the street artist August 2013

Youth participation was also publicised on the conference website, here on the conference blog and in the program. Positive feedback was received about the information available.

Stay tuned for more reflections on youth participation in the coming weeks…

The Conference is done: what now?

Packed Celebrity Room at the Conference
Participants packed into the Celebrity Room at the Conference to hear from keynote speakers

We were thrilled with the success of our inaugural The Good Childhood Conference. I know you can’t judge success by numbers but here are a few statistics:

  • Over the 3 days of the conference (starting with the pre-conference workshops) we had 1000 people in attendance;
  • During the two day conference there were 64 presentations & activities, including: 8 keynote addresses, 10 keynote presentations, 40 concurrent sessions, 2 performances, 1 youth panel, 1 youth led workshop, 1 football skills drill, and 1 book launch;
  • 63 young people and 25 foster carers attended the conference on scholarships;
  • There were 18 displays and exhibitors, as well as a street artist creating a work in front of our eyes;
  • We were supported by 7 sponsors, 22 supporting partners and many friends of the conference who provided scholarships for young people and carers.

Presenters and delegates alike have been very positive in their feedback and we thank you for your encouragement.

In holding the conference we were seeking to explore what sustains a good childhood and how we can best support those who have not experienced a good childhood and we are keen to understand whether we met this aim.

We are currently analysing delegates’ evaluation forms and will be sending out a survey to those who attended to obtain further information to assist us with future planning. Watch this blog to find out about some of the themes from this feedback.

What happens now?
One of the unique features of The Good Childhood conference was the presence of young people from SYN Media who attended all of the keynote and a range of other sessions, commenting on conference themes on twitter and drafting blog posts which we will share over the coming weeks.

This blog is going to become a permanent fixture for the Berry Street Childhood Institute as we encourage you all to engage in this conversation about what we want for children in Australia in the 21st century.

Why don’t you enter this conversation right now by commenting here? Otherwise get involved on Twitter at @ChildhoodInst.

Thanks to all of you who participated in any way at our conference!

The time has arrived – let the Conference begin!

Follow the Good Childhood Conference live on Twitter!
Follow the Good Childhood Conference live on Twitter!

Those of us who are organising The Good Childhood Conference are feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety (to be honest, terror) as our conference becomes a reality with pre-workshops on today and the conference starting tomorrow, Thursday 11 October.

Now if only we had listened to one of our keynote speakers, Robert Hart from the Resilience Institute, and “ejected stress” and “sustained our energy”!

The pre-conference workshops are seeing three of our conference speakers engaging participants in sessions about drumming, resilience and client case studies respectively.

This breadth of topics reflects the diversity of sessions we’ll be offering at the conference itself over the next two days.

So if you are attending the conference, we are really looking forward to your participation and hope you will join us in the conversation about a good childhood.

We encourage you to follow the seminars and discussions on social media, whether you are able to attend the conference or not.

Young people from SYN Media will be reporting on what they are hearing from our presenters on Twitter so you will be able to keep up with the content and respond to the key themes. The conference hash tag and key accounts are:

  1. #GCConf, follow this hash tag to see all Tweets relevant to the conference and each seminar,
  2. @ChildhoodInst, Tweeting highlights from the SYN Media Tweeters attending each seminar,
  3. @LiveSYN, covering the conference keynotes and seminars live.

After the conference we will be constantly updating this blog with posts written on most of the keynotes, seminars and worshops.

This way, we can let you know in more detail about what our presenters had to say about a good childhood – how it can be sustained and what we need to do for those who have not had a good childhood.

Again, we would be really pleased if you could comment on the blog so we know what you are thinking.

Here’s to a successful and dynamic conference!

Pictures of You

Brian Nankervis
Brian Nankervis (centre) on ‘Pictures of You’ with two of his special guests, comedians/ actors Anh Do and Shane Jacobson.

Without seeking to trivialise our conference aims, we don’t believe conversations about a Good Childhood should be restricted to earnest or academic exchanges.

After all, we all hope that childhood involves a good measure of fun and creativity.

We plan to end The Good Childhood Conference on a positive and entertaining note with a perspective on the good childhood theme from Brain Nankervis.

Brian is a Melbourne based performer, writer and producer who is probably best known as co-host of the popular SBS music trivia series ‘RocKwiz’.

In 2012 Brian hosted the talk show ‘Pictures of You’ on Channel 7. Guests were invited into the studio armed with their family photo collections and encouraged to reminisce about their early life.

At our conference, Brain will recreate this format with two of our presenters who will share some childhood photos and in the process, tell us something about who they are today.

If you go further back into Brian’s history as a performer, you might recall his regular appearances on Hey Hey It’s Saturday as the tortured street poet Raymond J Bartholomeuz.

We can’t promise you any poems but Brian is a consummate storyteller and he’s bound to whimsically and poignantly share something of his own childhood.

We hope to see you on Friday afternoon for a delightful end to a stimulating, possibly challenging conference program!

See Brian’s touching interview with “The Happiest Refugee” Anh Do below,

What makes people happy? What can you do to increase your own wellbeing?

Lea Waters
Associate Professor Lea Waters will be speaking about the promotion of positive psychology.

The answers to these age-old questions can surface from our favourite books, popular culture, talk-show personalities—and perhaps even your own mother!

For some, happiness is an integration of concepts from eastern and western religion or philosophy.

For others, wellbeing is the hard-earned benefit of lived-experience. 

The promotion of wellbeing is the driving force of positive psychology. Abraham Maslow was the first to coin the term “positive psychology” in 1954, noting “the science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than the positive side.

It has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illness, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his full psychological height.”

Over a decade ago, a call was put forth by Drs Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as a rallying cry at the American Psychological Association to renew science’s spotlight on the positive.

Could we in fact answer the question, “What makes life worth living?” using evidence-based practice backed by rigorous research to bring this learning to families, schools, public health, and organisations?

And if we want to best meet the needs of vulnerable young people, isn’t it important to best understand the complete picture of the human being and gain insight into building, nurturing and sustaining positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment?

The Berry Street Childhood Institute is excited to feature a leading champion of the field, Associate Professor Lea Waters of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne.

Read more about her recent work at MGSE and the promotion of positive psychology.

We are pleased that Lea will be one of our featured key note speakers on Friday, 11 October. Come join us at the Berry Street Good Childhood Conference at Mooney Valley Racecourse.

Introducing Maddie Witter, Speaker at The Good Childhood Conference on Foster change, building hope

Reading without limits
Reading without limits by Maddie Witter

These four strategies are:

1. Fostering hope in each young person by teaching students to build actionable pathways.
2. Developing stamina so students can persist through difficult tasks for long periods of time.
3. Determining where each student lies on their own individual developmental continuum and crafting lessons that allow all students to learn and continue on their continuum.
4. Giving students feedback daily and building in opportunities for young people to self-assess throughout a lesson.

Imagine a classroom where all students are engaged in highly rigorous and fun learning every single day. That classroom can be yours starting tomorrow.

You don’t have to be a reading specialist to pick up Maddie’s book, Reading Without Limits.

Anyone who wants to dramatically improve reading achievement will find helpful suggestions.

You might be a teacher whose students have mastered decoding, and you are ready to build their comprehension. You might be a high school science teacher whose students aren’t yet reading on level with deep critical thinking. Or you might be a parent or counselor who wants to hook an adolescent into the joy of reading.

This book is for you.

Along with hundreds of ready-to-use teaching strategies, Reading Without Limits comes with a supplemental website where teachers can download even more resources for free.

Reading Without Limits is the first book offered in the KIPP Educator Series. KIPP, or the Knowledge is Power Program, began in 1994 in the United States.

Currently, there are 125 KIPP schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serving nearly 40,000 students climbing the mountain to and through college.

Youth Scholarship Places NOW AVAILABLE!

Youth Scholarships are available for the Good Childhood Conference.
Youth Scholarships are available for the Good Childhood Conference.

We are pleased to announce that due to the generous support of Friends of The Good Childhood Conference, we are now able to offer youth scholarship places to The Good Childhood Conference!

The Berry Street Childhood Institute, along with many of the conference presenters and organisations working with children and young people in Australia, want to have a national conversation about what sustains a good childhood in the 21st Century.

We believe this conversation needs to include the unique perspective of young people who are currently growing up in the 21st Century. That’s why we ask that you share this opportunity with your students, clients, colleagues, friends and family.

Just having young people in the room changes the conversation. It reminds us that young people are not an analogous group of individuals that all do, think and experience the same things. It reminds us that young people have valuable insights into childhood too.

In general, we are offering scholarship places to young people aged between 16 and 21 years, however, we will receive applications from interested parties outside of this age range.

Accessing the youth scholarship places is easy

Simply email events@childhoodinstitute.org.au with the following details.*

  1. Name of applicant,
  2. Email of applicant,
  3. Name of support person (if required),
  4. Email of support person (if required),
  5. Attending Day 1 and/or Day 2?,
  6. Age of applicant.

These scholarship places will be allocated on a first-in-first-served basis. So get in quick!

*Note: These scholarship places do not include a teacher/worker place, if a support person is required the support person will need to be registered through the usual registration process here: www.goodchildhood.org.au

A good childhood for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Julian Pocock, Director Public Policy & Practice Development
Julian Pocock, Director Public Policy & Practice Development

In 2007, Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle – or the Little Children Are Sacred Report – exposed the complexity and shame of sexual abuse of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory.

Constant media focus on child abuse in the NT followed. Daily reports in The Australian newspaper and nightly stories on ABC’s Lateline.

They covered, paedophile rings, chronic neglect, kids sniffing petrol, kids roaming the streets day and night and the sexual abuse of kids, including kids abusing other kids. All fueled by a daily diet of pornography and alcohol.

Shocking, awful stuff. Hard to digest, hard to think about and harder to know where to start. But, in time, easy to ignore.

With the 2007 Federal Election looming, the NT intervention was announced in response to this ‘national emergency’.

Just after another election, it’s a good time to ask – has childhood improved for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children?

I’m not sure.

Media stories of neglect and abuse continue. Negative images of Aboriginal kids and families dominate.

Take a look at this photo of a two year old Aboriginal girl from NT in a News.com.au article.

What’s your first thought when you look at it?

At first glance it’s hard not to think she’s been punched.

I had to ask myself, why was that my first thought?

Are we getting any better at providing kids like this with a good childhood?

Social work and domestic violence

Social Work and Domestic Violence: developing critical and reflective practice, by Lesley Laing and Cathy Humphreys
Social Work and Domestic Violence: developing critical and reflective practice, by Lesley Laing and Cathy Humphreys

Lesley and I are doubly excited to be part of the Good Childhood Conference and that Robyn Miller (Principal Child Protection Practitioner, Victoria) will be launching our new book Social Work and Domestic Violence: developing critical and reflective practice.

The Good Childhood Conference reminds us of all that it important to create the context in which children can thrive.

Too often issues of domestic and family violence slip to the background when we talk about children and young people’s vulnerability.

It speaks to the breadth and depth of the conference that the complexity of children’s lives, including the issues of violence and abuse will be explored and discussed.

Our own understandings of domestic and family violence strive to recognise that children live in the context of their family relationships.

Strengthening the mother-child relationship and recognising the importance of accountability and responsibility are two central themes.

For Lesley and I, the book is the culmination of 30 years of working as practitioners, advocates and researchers in the domestic and family violence area. Our book is written for practitioners and for students.

It has chapters relevant to working with children, women and men where there is domestic violence and highlights the importance of working in a multi-agency context.

Issues of diversity are raised at the beginning of every chapter and then worked through as a theme to frame the context for working with children, women and men where issues of violence and abuse provide the backdrop to family life.

With thanks to guest blogger Cathy Humphreys, for this contribution.

Youth participation doesn’t come with instructions

Youth participation needs to be creative, flexible & responsive.
Youth participation needs to be creative, flexible & responsive.

Let’s be honest.

In the youth sector, the education sector and the welfare sector, we are often immersed in adult conversation. Even when we consult, hold focus groups and work alongside young people, the majority of the time we are adults talking to other adults.

At Berry Street, like other organisations across the country, we are committed to raising the bar in youth participation. We believe that young people have a key role in improving the lives of Australian children in the 21st Century.

But how do we support young people to take on this role?

And how can we ensure that young people are getting their fair say about what sustains a good childhood?

In the lead up to The Good Childhood Conference, the staff at the Berry Street Childhood Institute have been working to ensure that young people get their say.

We know that we don’t have all the answers.

We know that holding a national conference that brings adults and young people together will provide many lessons in youth participation. And we know we won’t stop there.

We have been buoyed by the interest of other organisations, and the overwhelming support from individuals (young and old) wanting the opportunity to come together.

Like the many organisations that we have taken inspiration from, we look forward to sharing our experiences with you.

From the youth engagement desk,
Katrina Stone

The Good Childhood Conference welcomes teachers and school leaders!

Tom Brunzell, Senior Advisor, Teaching and Learning

Students reading
Students reading.

Having a good education is a critical part of having a good childhood, so we’ve made sure our Good Childhood Conference features a specific learning stream for educators and school-based support providers.

We think it’s important to support educators to better understand the cognitive skills needed for learning, as well as nurturing character skills like gratitude, mindfulness and positive engagement.

That’s why a number of keynote presentations will focus on flourishing school communities and the science of wellbeing.

First, let’s focus on gratitude. We can assume that gratitude feels good in the moment—for both the giver and the receiver. But did you know that gratitude also promotes sustainable wellbeing outcomes?

In fact research tells us that gratitude is something that we can practice, promote, and develop as a daily wellbeing practice. Dr Lea Waters will share her work on gratitude in schools and talk about how gratitude can transform classroom culture.

Mindfulness can be a powerful foundation for safe and supportive classrooms where students learn strategies to last a lifetime.

We are fortunate to have Dr Craig Hassed presenting at our conference. He will talk about the importance of teaching mindfulness practice in order to empower our children with emotional awareness and positive self-regulation.

And finally, I will be discussing how strong and caring relationships promote positive engagement in the classroom. I wants us to think about addressing students’ needs through the re-conceptualisation of engagement as a mosaic of rhythm, rigor, flow, authentic feedback and a strengths based-curriculum.

Please join us on October 10th & 11th 2013 for these and many other interesting perspectives on how education can contribute to a good childhood.

Register now at http://goodchildhood.org.au/

A great way to start a conference!

Marg Hamley, Director, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Baroness_Connelly_Owen
Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE, Professor Marie Connolly, Jan Owen.

Day One of The Good Childhood Conference will get off to a great start with an array of powerful speakers. 
We really want to challenge conference delegates to consider what a ‘good childhood’ represents in the 21st Century, so we’ve invited three eminently qualified women to stimulate our thinking.

We kick off with the sometimes controversial, but always interesting, Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE. Susan is an English neuroscientist, writer and broadcaster.

She receives a lot of international attention for her forthright views on the impact of modern technologies, particularly social media, on how children and young people think and feel.

Her first presentation at the conference, on day one, takes a broad perspective and has this very long and impressive title – Helping children & young people thrive, achieve and belong: How neuroscience can contribute to framing and identifying the outcomes we want for children and young people in the 21st Century.

Next up, we have Professor Marie Connolly. A few years ago the University of Melbourne enticed this acclaimed social work leader and academic away from New Zealand. Berry Street was thrilled when Marie agreed to be a member of our Board!

Marie is a thoughtful, intelligent and passionate speaker who is bound to provide a new perspective on contemporary childhood. She will be approaching childhood in Australia from a rights perspective.

The morning session concludes with the much lauded Jan Owen AM, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians. Jan will be sharing her vision for young Australians in the 21st Century. She has a very optimistic view of the capacity of young people to create change and has herself always been at the forefront of social change organisations in Australia.

Last year Jan was named Australia’s “Woman of Influence” – expect to be inspired and motivated!

Register now at http://goodchildhood.org.au, and join us on Thursday 10th October for this great line up of speakers