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Conference to tackle children’s rights

13 May 2005

Conference to tackle children’s citizenship rights

How can we help children and young people increase their participation in society so they and everyone else might benefit from their input into decision-making processes?

This is one of the key issues to be discussed at a major conference running from July 7 to 9 at the University of Otago. Children and Young People as Citizens: Participation, Provision and Protection is the sixth Child and Family Conference run by the Children’s Issues Centre, which is based at the University.

Over 200 delegates are expected to attend the conference where several internationally and nationally renowned speakers will deliver keynote addresses.

The conference will examine issues and disseminate current research, policy and practice around children and young people's participation, protection and provision rights as citizens - especially those in marginalised groups such as children in care, children from low income families, or children with disabilities.

Centre Director Professor Anne Smith says that rather than merely treating children and young people as passive ‘citizens in waiting’, greater efforts must be made to increase opportunity for them to actively contribute towards decision-making processes at both national and community levels.

“Better decisions are likely to be made if their views, knowledge, and interests are considered and included; and more responsive and effective policies for children and young people are likely to be developed,” says Professor Smith.

Another important benefit of early encouragement and support for children and young people to become involved as citizens is that it makes them less likely to slip into social apathy and alienation as adults, she says.

The objectives of the conference include assisting the Government in implementing its Agenda for Children and Youth Development Strategy and promoting the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The keynote speakers include Professor Helen May, the University’s new Professor of Education, who will outline changing understandings of rights in relation to the early childhood sector. It will be her first presentation in her new role.

The international speakers are Bruce Smyth from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, who will talk about encouraging more creative post-divorce parenting arrangements that meet the needs of children and parents; and Dr Ruth Sinclair, Research Director at the UK National Children’s Bureau, who will present on the English experience of children’s participation in public life.

The other New Zealand keynote speakers include: Principal Family Court Judge, Hon Peter Boshier, who will look at how the Care of Children Act 2004 will affect children’s participation and protection rights in court cases; nine young people from the Young People’s Reference Group for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, who will discuss what citizenship means to them and their peers; and Raewin Tipene-Clarke from the Ministry of Education, who will talk on developing effective strategies for communicating with Tamariki and Rangatahi.

As well as the keynote addresses, around 70 papers will be presented by a diverse range of people from many disciplines and agencies involved in working with children, young people and their families.


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