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Children’s Issues Centre turns 10

5 December 2005

Children’s Issues Centre turns 10

When the Children’s Issues Centre at the University of Otago celebrates its 10th birthday on Friday it can look back on a decade of making important contributions to the well-being of children and young people – from the debate on smacking to making sure children’s perspectives are listened to when parents separate.

During that time it has produced groundbreaking research, run internationally recognised conferences, provided advocacy from the perspective of children and young people, and offered education and professional development.

Director Professor Anne Smith says one of the most satisfying things has been the ability to influence policy.

“It’s been fantastic to be able to have input into legislation and policy. It has been particularly satisfying to be able to do it in areas where there hasn’t been much research before – for example children and the law,” she says.

“Until the Centre began my main research focus for children was on education. The Centre’s broader scope meant that we had to widen our research into these other areas which have just as much impact on the lives of young New Zealanders.”

A prime example is the major input the CIC had into policy and legislation surrounding the role of children in decision making after their parents separate.

“The perspective we brought was: how does it feel from the child’s point-of-view? Plenty had been said about how it affected parents, but through our advocacy we have made the policy makers aware children are very important players.”

Prof Smith says one of the Centre’s strengths is the way in which it can work with Crown agencies, for example the Office of the Commissioner for Children.

“They don’t have the time to do the research. So we can work in partnership with them by doing the research, and they can advise on and implement new policy,” she says.

The Centre has been able to contribute in other ways as well, such as introducing a number of university papers and developing the distance taught Postgraduate Diploma in Child Advocacy and supervising scholarship students from other countries.

It has also gained international recognition attracting many international visiting scholars and holding conferences every two years that attract about 200 national and international experts.

Much of the knowledge accumulated through research, literature reviews, teaching, conferences and seminars has been channelled through the Children Issues Centre’s journal Childrenz Issues.

Professor Smith says the Centre has always been an advocate for the participation of children and young people in society through groups such as Youth Forums, and has been active in youth development and wellbeing events such as the Dunedin Youth Expo.

The centre has also had a major part in organising local events such as the Children’s Day Art Exhibition and Competition, to give greater visibility to young people’s images and ideas.

The 10th Anniversary will be marked with an informal function late Friday afternoon at the University of Otago Executive Residence involving invited guests, staff and board members, including long-serving chair, Justice Bruce Robertson.


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