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Children’s Rights under Microscope

Tuesday 7 February 2006

Children’s Rights under Microscope at Otago Gathering

Children and young people’s progress in claiming their rights to participate in decisions affecting them will be a key focus of an international research symposium held this week at the University of Otago.

Leading United Kingdom, Australian and New Zealand experts from several disciplines will share their research and perspectives on areas ranging from children’s input into legal proceedings and post-divorce arrangements to their potential role in shaping society’s response to the challenge of an oil-scarce future.

The symposium, ‘Children and Young People as Social Actors’, is hosted by the University’s Children’s Issues Centre and is being held on February 8-9 at St Margaret’s College.

Hon David Benson-Pope, the Minister for Social Development and Employment will give the opening address at the invitation-only symposium, which being attended by around 60 people.

Children’s Issues Centre Director Professor Anne Smith says the interactive gathering is “a great opportunity to cross-fertilise ideas and research from a number of different disciplines and countries”.

The overall aim of the gathering is to move research efforts forward, allowing better-informed policy in the many areas which children have a stake in, says Professor Smith.

“For example, in New Zealand, progress has been made in improving children’s voices in the courtroom, but children in care and disabled children are still very much marginalised,” she says.

“Research also shows that there is much more scope for children and young people to develop as citizens through taking a greater part in decisions in their educational settings and local environments,” she added.

Presentations will be given by leading overseas and New Zealand researchers working in areas including geography, law, education, disability studies and physical education, she says.

Professor Smith says she hopes to publish a book collecting together the symposium’s papers.

Among the speakers is leading international legal researcher Professor Michael Freeman of University College in London, who will discuss why children’s rights still need to be taken seriously, while University of New South Wales researchers Drs Paul Tranter and Scott Sharpe will discuss how society’s response to the challenge of declining oil resources can be shaped for the better by considering how our children will cope in a post-carbon world.

University of Sydney Law researchers Associate Professor Judy Cashmore and Professor Patrick Parkinson will also explore the Courts’ responsibility in hearing children's voices, and how there is considerable room for improvement to ensure that children can participate in a full and fair manner.

For a full programme with speakers and abstracts, please contact symposium organiser Kate Marshall, email:


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