Observations from Canada

It’s been a whirlwind since I left Australia on my Churchill Fellowship but I’ve had some wonderful meetings throughout Canada.

I’m very grateful to the many organisations that made time to meet with me and to share their experience and insights so openly.

It’s tempting to run through every meeting, as I took something from each of them, but instead I want to share a few observations and some of the themes that I’m seeing emerge and highlight a couple of tools that I can see we could potentially employ to support victim survivors in Victoria.

The use of Artificial Intelligence

Several organisations that I’ve met are using AI to create ecosystems that make it easier for youth to access services tailored to their needs, preferences and environments. I’m fascinated by the potential of AI to enable “early issue” identification and triage services through analysis of chat transcripts. Imagine if frontline call / chat workers could receive prompts, with 90% accuracy on the support a young person may need based on their conversational patterns?

Of course, data privacy and mitigating bias in these AI systems is paramount. Any solutions must have robust safeguards to protect young people’s data and ensure the algorithms are fair and equitable.

I’m inspired by the innovative work happening in this space and excited to further explore AI-driven ecosystems that truly meet youth where they are – whether that’s through familiar technologies, community hubs or seamless digital / physical service integration.

The importance of channels being confidential and anonymous – and of meeting people where they are

Building on the use of AI, I’ve seen some good examples of organisations offering a range of different channels so that young people can engage in the way that feels safest to them. As one Counsellor pointed out, phone services are anonymous and confidential and often still preferred over text. In Canada, regulations mean that if someone discloses abuse via text, the Service has an obligation to unmask and report to the Police. So often they switch from text to phone to remain anonymous. This same group also highlighted that they work hard to reach young people where they are – eg Snap Chat; Tik Tok; Reddit etc – to make it easy for them to access help when they need it.

Support can come from unexpected places

One of the programs I learnt about was a group of librarians who have collated 25,000 community support offerings (such as food backs, shelters, refuges) and make either warm or cold referrals for those in need. This highlighted that support can come from some of the least expected places and the opportunities for creating a broad network of support, so no one falls through the cracks.

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