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Children’s role in shaping their lives considered at roundtable discussion


Jane Munro
17 November 2010
The role that children can play in shaping their status and participation in society is being considered at a roundtable discussion being hosted by Southern Cross University’s Centre for Children and Young People and presented by Professor Mary Kellett, the director of the Childhood and Youth Program and Children's Research Centre at the Open University in the United Kingdom tomorrow at the Lismore campus.

Professor Kellett said that a quality childhood was a fundamental human right however not all children’s experience of life met this ideal.

“In an imperfect world not all children will experience this but it should not prevent us from retaining the aspiration. If we accept this as a human right then we have a duty of care to work towards achieving this,” Professor Kellett said.

“Contemporary childhoods are partially opaque to adults. We were children in a different generation and are not party to the subcultures of children's present-day worlds. Children are current beings now not adults in waiting, thus only they can be experts on their own lives - on what it is to be a child in the here and now.

“Children see with different eyes, they have different concerns, they ask different questions - sometimes questions that are not in adult consciousness. If we empower them as researchers then the knowledge they generate will be different from adult knowledge.

“It will be informed by insider perspective. This complementary knowledge will provide windows into their worlds, help us to understand their lived experiences and provide better for their needs.

“I have been working in this domain for almost 10 years and encountered much cynicism and sceptism that children are capable of undertaking their own research. I have also encountered adult fear and anxiety that this initiative cedes too much power to children and will undermine or subvert the position of adults in society.

“On the other hand, there have been adults who have embraced this concept enthusiastically and become impassioned advocates of child-led research.

“What is very clear to me is that improved listening cultures and meaningful child participation practices are becoming main stream in many nation states. The advancement of the children's rights agenda has been a catalyst in this respect. Those nation states where child participation is tokenistic are being left behind.”

Professor Kellett envisages a future where child and adult citizenship are viewed as different and complementary rather than hierarchical.

“I hope that there will be greater power-sharing so that children will be more involved in decision-making processes about matters that affect their lives. If children engage in their own research, they build a body of knowledge, a critical mass of evidence about childhood issues. In this way their status becomes one where they can make their own choices and share those choices with the broader community based on an empirical research voice with which to stake their claim to a quality childhood of their own making,” Professor Kellett said.

The roundtable discussion entitled 'It's our childhood, start with us! The evolution of children-as-researchers in contemporary society’ is open to the public and will be held tomorrow, Thursday November 18 at Southern Cross University Lismore campus in room B3.06 from 12pm to 2pm.

Light refreshments will be served. People wanting to attend are asked to rsvp to Wendy Britt on email [email protected] or by telephone on 66 203605.

Photo: Professor Mary Kellett, the director of the Childhood and Youth Program and Children's Research Centre at the Open University in the United Kingdom.