Reconciliation South Australia’s Chief Executive Shona Reid will become the state’s newest Guardian for Children and Young People, bringing remarkable insight to the advocacy role for children and young people in care.
Shona, a proud Eastern Arrernte woman with cultural connections in both South Australia and the Northern Territory, will take over the role from outgoing Guardian Penny Wright from 1 August 2022.
As well as becoming the Guardian, Shona will take on the roles of Child and Young Person Visitor, Training Centre Visitor and Youth Treatment Order Visitor.
The Child and Young Person Visitor function was reinstated to the Office of the Guardian by the State Government as part of the June State Budget, receiving funding of $1.87 million over the next four years.
Minister for Child Protection the Hon. Katrine Hildyard MP said the Guardian plays a critical role in advocating for children and young people in care and in empowering their voices.
“As Minister, I am viscerally determined to progress positive change on the complex and often interconnected issues that children and their families face,” Minister Hildyard said.
“I look forward to working together with Shona to do so through amplifying the voices of children and young people in care and ensuring they play a key role in decision making about their care and all aspects of their lives.
“Shona brings a great depth of experience to the Guardian role, in particular her advocacy work with communities across the state, through her role with Reconciliation SA, and I warmly welcome her to the role.
“I wholeheartedly thank Penny for her dedication and commitment to children and young people in care and for always striving to ensure their voices are heard and acted upon. Penny has made a difference and I am sure that Shona will too.”
Incoming Guardian for Children and Young People Shona Reid said it was a position that had the capacity to “challenge what we think is unchangeable, an opportunity to critique systems and inspire”.
“ It (the position) represents a responsibility to play its part in ensuring the specific interests, particularly cultural interests, of First Nation children in care and/or detention are heard, understood and met,” Shona said.
“The holding of this office is both a privilege and honour. A privilege to listen intently to children and young people and truly hear their words. An honour to always be there ‘no matter what’. No matter how tough things get, no matter how complicated life is. The honour to be the constant advocate and change maker.
“As a mum of seven, three of which I have the honour to be a second mum to, I know too well that it takes a village to grow kids up well, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that the community and society in which we grow and nurture children and young people upholds their rights and protects their interests.
“That’s what excites me about this position. That we get to further define how our society does this and that children and young people in our village are more than surviving, they are thriving.”
Outgoing Guardian for Children and Young People Penny Wright, who has held the position since 2017, said ‘hanging out with remarkable kids for five years has been an absolute pleasure’.
“Although they are all unique individuals I have noticed they often have great compassion and loyalty, especially for their siblings and other children and young people in care or detention, and I’ve been awed by their determination to use their experiences to make a difference for others,” Penny said.
“It is very satisfying to see something that needs fixing and being able to work with others to make a difference, big and small. I have seen a young person, after several years of persistence, meet brothers he had never known, and a child finally moving out of residential care to live with a grandparent interstate.
“Shona, this will be one of the hardest, but best, jobs you will ever have. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and be fearless and unrelenting in your advocacy, guided by the voice of the children and young people and motivated only by their best interests.”