The adage that children should be seen and not heard is being flipped on its head by Southern Cross University’s Centre for Children and Young People (CCYP). Founding Director Professor Anne Graham, AO, says our youth are future leaders and should have a say on issues that affect their lives.
Speaking on SCU Buzz podcast, Professor Graham said the CCYP has challenged notions of doing research on children but not with them.
“We work collaboratively with children and young people. They’re the change we need to make. When we talk about transforming tomorrow, what we’re talking about is saying how can we work with young people who know a lot about their lives and about what matters, about what impacts on them but also about what would help them,” Professor Graham said.
“What the Centre is about is generating research that can contribute to improving children and young people’s lives. We want kids to leave feeling respected, heard and valued.”
The past few years have caused a period of instability for Australia’s youth due to the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread natural disasters. Professor Graham said there are numerous methods to ensure children and young people feel supported.
“We know that, for young people, clear factual information is really important,” Professor Graham said.
“We learned a lot about what children need around reassurance. They need to know that when they hear rain on the roof there’s not going to be another flood. If they’re triggered by the smell of smoke they need to be reassured.
“For parents, it’s important to stay connected with their child, offer that comfort and reassurance, and involve them where it’s appropriate in decision-making about things going forward.”
Professor Graham has authored two programs which assist children and young people to build resilience. Stormbirds teaches skills in coping with emotions following natural disasters while Seasons for Growth is a highly successful loss and grief education program which runs in five countries.
Following her contributions to childhood studies and children’s research, in 2018 Professor Graham was made an Officer of the Order of Australia.
“What overwhelmed me most was in that moment I could feel the presence of the hundreds of good people that I’ve trained in the Seasons for Growth program. I thought about the thousands of children in good faith who’ve participated in our research to try to shed light on what it is that might make a difference in their lives,” she said.