The old adage is that children should be seen and not heard. And too often this is the case, even in regard to issues that seriously impact their lives. While the United Nations states that children have a right to contribute to decisions affecting them – they rarely have an opportunity to do so when it comes to health and social issues. In the Children’s Lives Hallmark Research Initiative, researchers didn’t just interview children. Children acted as co-researchers themselves, working alongside partners to create research questions that examined issues affecting young people.
The Children's Lives Hallmark Research Initiative was announced in 2015. Now, cross-faculty collaboration continues under the auspices of The Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program and engages an active community of Children's Lives researchers in the University. Information about ongoing Children's Lives research is available here.
The Children’s Lives Hallmark Research Initiative:
- brought interdisciplinary researchers together from across the University
- provided opportunities for skill development of researchers who work with children and youth
- developed new research projects with a focus on children and youth being involved as co-researchers.
- developed a series of child resilience research projects
Notable activities and outcomes of the initiative are detailed below.
Partnerships with ABC television’s Behind the News and the National Children’s Commissioner
Researchers from the initiative and National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell worked with approximately 80 child and teenage co-researchers across Australia. Together they explored the children’s opportunities to contribute in their daily lives. And the children’s knowledge of their rights. They then co-developed surveys intended for children to complete. These surveys were aired by project partner ABC Behind the News:
- The Kids Contribute Study, on children’s contributions to home, school and community, drew responses from 10,800 BTN viewers.
- The Kids’ Rights Survey drew 22,700 responses on how children and young people feel about growing up in Australia, what rights are important to them, and ease of access to necessities like doctors and schooling.
Several children who participated in this project presented findings and recommendations on these topics at the National Child and Youth Forum on Friday September 7, 2019.
National Child and Youth Forum (2019)
The National Child and Youth Forum was an opportunity for eighteen children who’d been working with researchers within the Hallmark to present findings and recommendations on topics affecting their health, wellbeing and rights. They presented to a panel of influential Australians, including the National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell. Megan passed this information to the United Nations in relation to Australia’s performance against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The work of the initiative was underpinned by the concept of a rights-based approach. This is an approach where children and young people’s evolving capacities and expertise are valued.
While it is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that children have a right to contribute to decisions affecting their lives – they rarely have an opportunity to do so for major public health and social issues. Research conducted in the initiative gave children that opportunity.
Under a rights-based approach, there is an expectation that children and young people’s views will become far more active and will influence the development of policy and the research agenda that affect them.
The initiative worked to make children, young people and their families more visible as research participants. The initiative used innovative methods to engage children and young people.