Children’s Participation at ACTG

Earlier this year ACTG launched a project seeking to hear the voice of children, young people and adults who use our services. Our hope was that we will gain new insights into a variety of issues; develop better and more effective policies and practices; make more accurate decisions about the quality-of-service provision and increase the sense of belonging to ACTG by our clients.

Participation contributes to the empowerment of children and young people in the systems and organisations in which they are involved, and ACTG is part of these systems.  Research strongly supports the notion that listening to the views of children and young people aids in their belief in themselves, helps build strength through collaboration, and supports the realisation of their rights.

In other words, recognition of their right to be listened to and taken seriously promotes a sense of self-esteem and capacity to make a difference.

“Every child and young person under 18 years of age has the right to participate and have their opinions included in decision-making processes that relate to their lives.”

– Article 12, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

We know that children’s voices are often unheard or drowned out by the adults around them, even when it is the child or young person’s own experiences, needs and feelings that are the topic of conversation. There is an increasing body of research that suggests that adults, this can include organisations just like ACTG, are not accurate in their accounts of children’s experiences. This is particularly prevalent through a child or young person’s interpretation of an event and the signs and symptoms that they may be experiencing. Children often know the information adults want to hear and adapt their narratives to suit this agenda.

There is a broad lack of knowledge and intentional application of children’s rights in the environment which they learn, grow and develop. This lack of knowledge can create significant concerns to upholding the rights of children to access and be part of decision making that impacts their life.

“Children who have received opportunities to participate and provide feedback, are more likely to be sensitive to the perspectives of others and be concerned about their rights”

– Covell & Howe 2005

Conversely, children who do not feel their voices have been heard, or who have had little engagement in the decisions made about their wellbeing and safety, are left vulnerable. Children are vulnerable in organisations that do not listen to them, do not value their voice or opinion, or do not perceive them to have the capability to meaningfully contribute to the organisation’s agenda. This vulnerability exists because the organisational attitude or culture facilitate the perspective that children and young people can be overlooked, minimised, silenced, or not believed.

Listening to children and having them actively participate in their choices is a fundamental element of all the work that ACTG performs.

To support our project, we encouraged children to share their feelings and thoughts with us via images as to how they experienced their connection. These images reflect an array of emotions – including happiness, curiosity, inclusion, diversity, reciprocity, trust, hope and awareness.  We are using these reflections to strengthen our participation with children, and to ensure that these lovely pieces of work are available for all to see across our sites.

Pictures from primary school aged children including hearts and rainbows

Students were asked to draw what it is they value

Children's drawings including Australian and Eritrean flag

Values included self-care, empathy and cultural diversity

Our huge thanks to the many children who shared their feelings with us and for enabling us to further share with our community.

ACT Group

References

Covell, K. & Howe, R.B. (2005). Rights, Respect and Responsibility. Report on the RRR Initiative to Hampshire County Education Authority. CBU Children’s Rights Centre. See final report.

United Nations. (1990). Conventions on the Human Rights of the Child. See all 54 articles.