This is the time of year dedicated globally and nationally to celebrating children’s rights, talents and citizenship.
This year the theme is about Children’s Right to Speak and be listened to.
Article 12 of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child says:
Children have the right to have a say in matters that affect them, and for their views and opinions to be taken seriously.
As professionals working with young children, how do we support this right?
Pat Jewell, Parenting and Early Years Program Manager with the Australian Childhood Foundation, says:
‘What we need to realise is that children depend on adults to enable their voices to be heard—it is such an important responsibility to see even the youngest child as a citizen, to respect them and take them seriously.
‘Early childhood educators need to see children with eyes that are open to each child’s potential for having something to say and be prepared to listen, take them seriously and if relevant, take action.’
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) and Early Childhood Australia (ECA) worked together to develop a guide for educators to help them to support children’s rights: Supporting young children's rights: Statement of intent 2015-2018
This statement includes the voices of children from a national consultation process by National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell called the ‘Big Banter’.
A child from Victoria wrote: I would feel better if in life we kids had more of a say as we do have a voice and we would like to be heard and this is perfect for me as I am being heard.
To support children’s right to be heard (Theme 1), the statement offers these priority areas for action:
Action 1.1: building early childhood professionals’ capacity, skills and knowledge to work, think and behave in a way that supports the implementation of children’s rights, including the right to express their views, in everyday practice.
Action 1.2: supporting professionals working with young children to recognise that all children, including very young children, have the right to be heard and to participate in decision-making processes.
Action 1.3: supporting professionals working with young children to understand that they have the responsibility to listen to children, consider their opinions and act on their wishes, taking into account the child’s best interests.
Action 1.4: supporting professionals to be able to identify and use appropriate resources and tools to ethically facilitate children’s participation and decision-making.
To summarise, Pat Jewell suggests educators make these commitments:
- Provide children with opportunities for their views to be heard and acted upon.
- Listen to and value children’s views and opinions and show that they have been acted upon.
Download these posters:
Find out more:
Children’s Week Council www.childrensweek.org.au/
Napcan resources www.napcan.org.au/childrensweek/
Pat Jewell, presentation slides: Children have the right to be heard, but how do we listen?
Australian Childhood Foundation