SYDNEY, Wednesday 20 November 2019 – New research released today by UNICEF Australia for World Children’s Day shows that most children and young people in Australia determinedly consider that they think independently and form their own views free from adult pressure, and are encouraged to do so. They have a well-considered set of reasons for enjoying growing up in Australia today – as most do - which are reflected in their analysis of the things that need to change in the world around them at the neighborhood, country and global levels.
“Thirty years ago in a historic moment, the world adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. When Australia signed the Convention we made a clear promise to listen to children, and to take their views seriously. In a highly polarised environment, UNICEF Australia decided to investigate the extent to which children and young people feel that they are able to form and express independent views, and their priorities for positive change,” said Tony Stuart, CEO, UNICEF Australia.
For World Children’s Day 2019, UNICEF Australia is releasing the results of a three-pronged national conversation with children and young people, called #WorldChildrensSay, about the issues that they consider to most impact upon their lives in Australia – the things they think should change to make everyone’s lives better.
The #WorldChildrensSay research found that, when asked what single thing should be changed or improved to make things better – in terms of the four dimensions of: their overall quality of life, their neighbourhood, their country and the entire world– treatment of the environment took highest place at each level (12.5%, 12.6%, 19.6% and 28.1% respectively). This view included water and other forms of pollution, climate change, extinction rates and dwindling vegetation.
The vast majority of children and young people (85%) in Australia today consider that they solidly hold their own views. Two thirds (67%) consider that their opinions are their own (30%), that adults encourage them to think for themselves and don’t influence them to think in certain ways (37%). A further 18% acknowledge that the adults around them have strong views, but that they are very able to push back against them to assert their own opinion formation, 10% accept views of strongly opinioned adults around them has some influence on their opinions, while 3% say their opinions mirror those important to the adults around them.
Almost three quarters (70%) of children and young people are encouraged at home to discuss the matters that are important to them, with another 22% having these discussions without receiving encouragement to do so. Similarly, 60% are encouraged at school to discuss these matters while a further 25% have the discussions without being actively encouraged to raise issues. A third (31%) say their views are taken seriously and acted on where necessary, with half (48%) saying this happens sometimes.
“Without providing prescriptive, we asked open ended questions to find out the one issue that children and young people would change to improve their individual quality of life, neighbourhood, country and the world – as well as what they like most about growing up in their country today,” said UNICEF Australia Director of Australian Programs and Child Rights, Nicole Breeze.
While a quarter (23.4%) volunteered safety and security (freedom, absence of war etc) as the thing that they most enjoy about growing up here today, this element is also reflected in the answers about the one thing they want to change, pointing to the sophistication with which they analyse the world around them.
“The research certainly presents a positive picture overall about children feeling listened to in their homes and schools. However, we need to carefully rethink how we hear from children and young people who are most marginalized, most at risk of harm and frequently the hardest to reach,” said Tony Stuart.