Media Releases - 20 June 2024

Statement from Leanne McLean, Commissioner for Children and Young People

Today I am announcing my resignation from the role of Commissioner for Children and Young People to take up the position of the Director of the Peter Underwood Centre at the University of Tasmania.

It has been a great honour and a privilege to serve as Commissioner for the past five and a half years, and to have been Tasmania’s longest serving Commissioner.

I am extraordinarily grateful to have been guided by the wisdom, knowledge and energy of the many children and young people who have helped me fulfill this role on behalf of all young Tasmanians.

I have also been supported by a team of dedicated expert staff who are deeply committed to making Tasmania a better place for our children and young people to grow and thrive.

The past five years have been a time of extraordinary focus and change for the children and young people of Tasmania, and significant policy and legislative changes aimed at improving their rights and wellbeing have already been achieved or have been committed to during my time as Commissioner, including:

  • Instigating a whole-of-government strategy and investment to improve the wellbeing of children and young people – It Takes a Tasmanian Village
  • Introducing the CCYP Ambassador Program and YEP! Program ensuring more Tasmanian children and young people can have a say on decisions that affect them.
  • Ending the routine practice of strip-searching children in custody in Tasmania.
  • Ongoing advocacy towards a more therapeutic approach to youth justice in Tasmania including by delivering comprehensive advice to the Tasmanian Government on the age of criminal responsibility.
  • Introducing an embedded, rights based individual advocacy model for children in youth justice detention.
  • Embedding Tasmania’s first independent systemic monitoring of the out-of-home care system.
  • Advocating for the establishment of a new expanded Commission for Children and Young People to oversight the rights and wellbeing of Tasmania’s children and young people and deliberative implementation of this and all other recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry

Despite these achievements, significant challenges remain, including workforce constraints across all services for children, from universal services such as education and health, to critical front-line services such as child safety and youth justice.

Cost of living pressures, homelessness and poverty continue to impact a large proportion of Tasmanian children and young people and their families.

Issues including family violence, drug and alcohol use, intimate partner violence, harmful behaviours amongst peers, sexual abuse and exploitation, and mental ill health remain real risks to the safety and wellbeing of our children and young people.

Our educational performance across a range of indicators has declined in recent years, and this is extremely concerning. Collaboration, new ways of working, and collective agreement on change directed at improvement is required.

Tasmania is at a precipice and the decisions and actions taken now, will have ramifications for years to come. Bravery and determination will be required to realise the changes needed.

The Government has indicated its intention to establish a new Commission for Children and Young People. I have long advocated for this and remain very supportive.

Now is the right time for me to step away from this role, to enable the establishment of the new Commission and the recruitment of the new statutory officers that will make up that new Commission.

Now, more than ever, a child-centred focus that respects the inherent value of our children and young people and advances their human rights, including their right to participate in decisions which affect them, is required. 

The future prosperity of our state, by any measure, be it social, economic or environmental depends on us enabling all Tasmanian children and young people to have a good life, to grow up healthy and safe, and to learn and participate.

I look forward to continuing to work with and for young Tasmanians through leadership of the Peter Underwood Centre, helping to ensure that more Tasmanian children can thrive and be empowered through an inspiring and purposeful education.

Leanne McLean,
Commissioner for Children and Young People

Media Contact:
Mark Thomas, M&M Communications
0422 006 732