The ability to participate and have their voice heard is an important issue for Australia’s children and young people. This is a key principle of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and an important aspect of empowering children and young people.
It is also the key principle that underlies the recently released Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians Joint Participation Paper 2018.
Children and young people talk about this in their own words:
“All children have a voice and a right to do certain things. We all want out voice to be heard and our opinions to be taken seriously.”
“Talking is important.”
“I do need to talk with you. I need to let you know what is important to me, to get what I want and need and to be kept safe.”
[What makes you feel safe?] “Someone to talk to.”
“It’s important that young people have an opportunity to talk about this stuff but it has to be done safely so, you know, it doesn’t make life worse for them … But I think that even though adults are scared to talk about this stuff because it is uncomfortable, it has to be done if things are going to change.”
“[I] don’t want someone else making the decisions about what I want.”
“How do you know what I want if you don’t ask me? Or don’t listen when I tell you?”
“We have ‘equal thoughts’: don’t just think that adults have the big thoughts. Kids have big thoughts too.”
“A good society values the opinions of young people, even if they are inexperienced.”
“Not just popular kids get a say or participate – everybody is equal.”
“We should all listen respectfully. It does not matter if you are young or old. Your ideas may be very good and are worth listening to… They don’t always have to agree but at least let them be heard.”317
A number of children and young people also expressed concern that their opinions are not respected and their voices go unheard:
“Even if I can get my views out there, I’m not always listened to.”
“Parents don’t care about kids’ opinions because they think kids know nothing.”
“I think that adults think they know what kids need to be safe but I don’t think that they do. They base it on what they remember from when they were kids and the world is different now. So they need to talk to kids and find out what it means to them.”
‘[I] need to be able to communicate – no-one to talk to – need person to talk to.”
There is a treasure trove of comments from young people across Australia about the matters that concern them, from bullying to transport in the Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians Joint Participation Paper 2018 which you can download here.