From children in out-of-home care, to young people incarcerated in detention centres, to students in schools right here in the ACT, Alasdair Roy has spoken with thousands of children across Australia, then represented their interests at the highest level of government decision-making.
Alasdair, a University of Canberra alumnus and registered psychologist, has worked in the child rights sector for more than 30 years, including in high-profile roles such as the Deputy Community Advocate for Children and Young People in Canberra, and the ACT Children and Young People Commissioner.
Regardless of his role or title at any given time, Alasdair’s work centres on advocating for the interests of young people.
“I think children and young people have historically been – and continue to be – seen as ‘other’. As adults-in-waiting,” Alasdair says.
“Young people of all ages are experts in their worlds. You just have to ask them respectfully.”
For this work, Alasdair has been recognised with the University of Canberra’s Chancellor’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the university’s 2022 Distinguished Alumni Awards.
The award recognises alumni whose professional careers have had a significant impact on, and made a major contribution to, their chosen fields, nationally and/or internationally.
Alasdair’s history with the university spans decades, since his first job, working as a counsellor at the Youthline Telephone Counselling Service. At the time, he wanted to develop his counselling skills so he could better assist young people in need of support.
After researching his options, Alasdair chose to undertake a Graduate Diploma of Counselling at the University of Canberra and in the years that followed, returned to complete a Master of Applied Psychology.
“I chose UC because I was very impressed with the education and the learning opportunities provided through the graduate diploma,” he said.
“As well as learning practical skills, it provided me with a far greater opportunity to participate in experiential learning, with opportunities to reflect, discuss, share, challenge and unpack theories, and how these apply in practice.”
Alasdair feels honoured to have been recognised for his work and in turn, in an acceptance speech on the day, recognised the pivotal role of his education in enabling his success.
“If it wasn’t for the University of Canberra, I would not be on stage with this award in my hand,” he said.
“The education I was afforded at the University of Canberra provided me with the skills and way of thinking necessary to achieve in whatever roles and opportunities came my way.”
Despite receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, Alasdair is by no means quitting now.
Recently, he started his own consulting business, providing expert advice to government, private and not-for-profit organisations locally and internationally.
As well as overseeing several Australian-based projects, he is currently consulting for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on how to improve its child protection system. He is also teaching psychology at the Singapore University of Social Sciences. It’s a vastly different environment to that of Australia, but it’s a role he’s enjoying immensely.
He’s also eager to give back to the University of Canberra community and is looking forward to further discussions with the university about the best ways to do this.
In a world where children are increasingly coping with mental health concerns, it’s important that we take the learnings of Alasdair’s lifetime of achievement, and always look to empower the voices of children by asking and then truly listening to what they have to say.