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New university centre keen to include the views of children


9 February 2004
Including the views of children and young people in any research, practice and policy development related to them is a high priority for a new inter-disciplinary centre at Southern Cross University (SCU).

The Centre for Children and Young People is focusing on promoting the wellbeing of children and young people through research, education and advocacy.

"Our research has shown that children and young people have the capacity and willingness to participate in research," said Centre Director, Dr Anne Graham, Senior Lecturer in SCU's School of Education. Dr Graham is also the author of the highly successful K-12 loss and grief education program 'Seasons for Growth'.

"We would like, as a fundamental element of the Centre, to incorporate the views of children and young people in the work that we do because often their views are not heard in research, nor in the development of policy initiatives that seek to address their needs," Dr Graham said.

"We think that's something that distinguishes the SCU Centre, and our consultations over recent months suggest there are many organisations working with children, young people and their families who share our enthusiasm for such an approach."

To launch the Centre a conference will be held on Friday, February 20 at SCU featuring two high-profile researchers in the field: Emeritus Professor Tony Vinson, from the University of NSW School of Social Work, and Associate Professor Judy Cashmore, from the University of Sydney's Law Faculty.

Dr Graham said involving young people could lead to a completely different finding in a project and potentially save money. For instance, she was recently involved in a project investigating ways to improve the social and emotional well-being of students.

Most principals suggested more school counsellors, yet when a group of articulate young people in Years 7-11 were consulted, they shed a different light on the matter.

"They named such things as the impact of a significant teacher whom they respected, consulted with and felt valued by, and the importance of their peer group in helping them through difficult times," Dr Graham said.

"The recommendations that were put forward reflected these views as well as those of the principals. The school system involved was pleased with the outcome because it gave them a number of alternatives for action."

The Centre will involve about 20 researchers across the university who are involved in projects associated with children and young people, including the schools of Education, Law and Justice, Psychology, Social Sciences, and Nursing as well as the College of Indigenous Australian Peoples. The Centre could also link with various government and non-government departments and organisations externally that deal with children, eg Department of community services, Department of Education and Interrelate.

"We're trying to link the groups involved in research, policy and practice more closely, and enable some conversation at the very least, and collaboration at the very best, between practitioners and researchers," Dr Graham said.

The Centre will carry out research in partnership with these bodies, as well as provide education and professional development for individuals and organisations.

It will specialise in research related to children and young people up to age 22, with a particular focus on children in rural and regional areas.

Current projects include children's experiences of the Family Court, mental health issues in schools, family and school partnership, and youth spirituality. The Centre has a strong interest in the needs and experiences of indigenous children and youth.

The 'Research, Education & Advocacy: Can We Do it Better for Our Kids?' conference will be held on Friday, February 20, in the Whitebrook Theatre, Southern Cross University Lismore campus, from 9am to 4.30pm.

The Federal Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and Member for Richmond, Larry Anthony, will give the opening address.

The first keynote speaker, Emeritus Professor Tony Vinson, from UNSW, will speak at 10am on 'Building Community Capacity: Implications for Children and Young People'. The second keynote speaker, Associate Professor Judy Cashmore, from Sydney University, will speakat 11.30am on 'Better Outcomes For Our Kids: Linking Research, Policy and Practice'.

ABC broadcaster and social commentator Geraldine Doogue will MC the conference and provide a summary of the morning from 12.45pm to 1pm.

Ms Doogue will also host a panel presentation and discussion from 2pm to 3.30pm headed 'What do we know and where should we go?'.

"The purpose of the conference is to bring together key individuals in agencies, organisations and professions working to promote the interests and well-being of children and young people," Dr Graham said.

"It will include input on the issues facing children and young people in their family, school and community contexts. Discussion will focus on initiatives and responses within our own context of the NSW North Coast," she said.

Both Professor Vinson and Professor Cashmore have been invited on to an advisory committee of the Centre on an ongoing basis, Dr Graham said.

"We hope that this Centre will become a flagship of the university, because of its emphasis on collaboration between researchers and practitioners, and because there is so much shared interest and concern about promoting the well-being of children and young people."

For more information see conference website:, or contact Karen Hanna at Norsearch Ph: 6620 3268.

Media contact: SCU Media Liaison Sara Crowe or Kath Duncan Ph: 6620 3144 or Brigid Veale Ph: 6659 3006 or 0439 680 748.