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What Australia can learn from Scottish children

Kids Thrive has worked for 10 years to empower children to lead creative change in their communities and play an active role in the democratic process.

Scotland is a leading example of a country that is enabling this at the policy level, thanks in part to the excellent work of the Edinburgh-based Children’s Parliament UK, which is Scotland’s Centre of Excellence for Children’s Participation and Engagement.

Scottish legislation, guidelines and training now routinely acknowledge children’s rights, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child will most likely be incorporated into Scots Law by 2021. Article 12 of the Convention states;

Children have the right to say what they think should happen when adults are making decisions that affect them, and to have their opinions taken into account.

Led by child members and supported by adults, the Parliament encourages the Scottish Government and authorities to recognise and support the role of children as child rights defenders within policy and practice.

Since 2017, more than 1000 people, including doctors, nurses, teachers, parents, carers, civil servants, local authority workers, third sector practitioners, United Nations deputy high commissioners, and even the First Minister of Scotland, have joined the movement as Unfearties. These are individuals who are ‘courageous in discussing children’s issues, who are making a difference in children’s lives, and who are willing to speak up for, and stand alongside, children’.

The Children’s Parliament participates at the local, national and international level, connecting children and educating them about their rights and creating visionary artworks to champion them.

There is a very strong synergy between the Scottish Children’s Parliament and Kids Thrive. Both organisations use arts and creative processes as a key tool to engage children in exploring their rights and communities. On a recent visit to the UK, we met with the Parliament’s Co-Founder and Co-Director Cathy McCulloch, Parliament Trustee Dr Jonathan Sher, and Rona Blackwood, Head of Programmes. We discussed our shared vision of empowering children through creative, collaborative practices. They spoke of the importance of putting the Scottish policies and rights into practice, as outlined in Sher’s article Scotland’s Cinderella Organisation.

From the Australian perspective, there is much foundational work to do to increase and formalise the representation of children at the local, state and national levels of government, and Scotland is a great example of where we can start with creativity at the heart of democratic processes.

Learn more about the Children’s Parliament, UK.

Dr Andrea Lemon, Co-Founder / CEO, Kids Thrive



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