When children report on disturbing events – such as child sexual abuse – how does society respond?
This is one of many important questions that was discussed at an ambitious public symposium at The University of Melbourne.
Children’s Voices in Contemporary Australia addressed the cultural, political and legal settings that have allowed institutional child sexual abuse, detention of asylum seeker children, and the sometimes inadequate treatment of disorders such as autism to continue in our society.
The one-day, cross-disciplinary event brought together researchers, practitioners and professionals, as well as young people with lived experience, to discuss how children can find a voice – and ensure society listens.
Dr Melissa Raine, Associate Investigator with The University of Melbourne’s Centre for the History of Emotions, says recent events have highlighted the importance of listening to children’s stories and providing appropriate support and responses.
“The shocking revelations about mistreatment of children in public and private institutions around the country show that we still have a long way to go in empowering children to speak up,” Dr Raine said.
“We need to ensure that unexpected or disturbing narratives from children are met with flexible, robust and supportive responses from adults in authority.”
The symposium will also address more positive stories about children’s voices, including the ‘Free the Children Nauru’ Facebook page, run by children in detention, autistic children who have made huge developmental gains, and the use of digital technology to help Indigenous children extend their culture’s storytelling tradition.
Dr Raine hopes the symposium’s wrap-up session will lead to firm policy statements on children’s issues that can be presented to policymakers around the country.
(Source: The University of Melbourne)