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International Journal of Early Childhood

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 79–93 | Cite as

Young Children as Active Citizens in Local Government: Possibilities and challenges from an Australian perspective

  • Clare Bartholomaeus
  • Carolyn Gregoric
  • Susan KriegEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

Despite considerable research and discussion regarding children and young people’s rights and citizenship, the participation of young children in community decision-making is still limited. In this exploratory research, a case study is reported on how ideas about young children as active citizens are interpreted within one local government context. Data were collected and analysed from nine local government staff who completed an online survey. The survey focused on issues with respect to: services and programmes for young children; inclusion of young children in local government policies and plans; how local government defines active citizenship; how children could participate as active citizens; and an open-ended question regarding the avenues and possibilities for young children to express their opinions and be involved in local government decision-making. The findings suggested that while older children and adolescents may be involved in consultation processes, this local government did not have effective mechanisms for enabling young children to readily participate in their communities as active citizens. The conclusions offer some ideas about the possibilities for change. In particular, greater collaboration between local government and early childhood education programmes is important if young children are to be equipped and involved in the local government decisions affecting them.

Keywords

Active citizenship Young children Participation Local government Early childhood education Australia 

Résumé

En dépit d’un nombre considérable d’études et de discussions menées au sujet des droits et de la citoyenneté des enfants et des jeunes, la participation des jeunes enfants à la prise de décision de la communauté reste encore limitée. Cette recherche exploratoire rapporte une étude de cas qui s’intéresse à la façon dont les idées sur la participation des jeunes enfants comme citoyens actifs sont interprétées dans un contexte de gouvernement local. Les données cueillies et analysées proviennent de neuf membres du personnel d’un gouvernement local qui ont complété un sondage en ligne. Le sondage portait sur des questions concernant les services et les programmes pour jeunes enfants, l’inclusion des jeunes enfants dans les politiques et plans du gouvernement local, la façon dont le gouvernement local définit la citoyenneté active, la façon dont les enfants pourraient participer comme citoyens actifs, et une question ouverte sur les approches et les possibilités pour les jeunes enfants d’exprimer leurs opinions et d’être impliqués dans la prise de décisions du gouvernement local. Les résultats suggèrent que tandis que les enfants plus âgés et les adolescents peuvent être impliqués dans le processus de consultation, ce gouvernement local n’avait pas de mécanismes permettant effectivement aux jeunes enfants de participer facilement à leurs communautés en tant que citoyens actifs. La conclusion offre quelques idées de possibilités de changement. En particulier, une plus grande collaboration entre le gouvernement local et les programmes d’éducation de la petite enfance est importante si l’on veut que les jeunes enfants soient préparés et impliqués dans les décisions du gouvernement local qui les touchent.

Resumen

A pesar de la considerable investigación y discusión acerca de los derechos y ciudadanía de niños y jóvenes, la participación de niños pequeños en la toma de decisiones dentro de la comunidad es todavía bastante limitada. En esta investigación exploratoria se informa de un caso de estudio que analiza cómo se interpretan las ideas de los niños como ciudadanos activos en un contexto de gobierno local. Los datos analizados se recogieron de nueve empleados del gobierno local que rellenaron un cuestionario en línea. El cuestionario se centraba en los siguientes temas: servicios y programas para niños pequeños; inclusión de niños pequeños en pólizas y planes del gobierno local; cómo define el gobierno local la ciudadanía activa; cómo podrían participar los niños como ciudadanos activos; y una pregunta abierta sobre las vías y posibilidades para que los niños puedan expresar sus opiniones e involucrarse en la toma de decisiones en el gobierno local. Los resultados sugirieron que, mientras que los niños más mayores y los adolescentes pueden ser partícipes en procesos de consulta, este gobierno local no puso en práctica mecanismos efectivos para permitir que los niños más pequeños participaran fácilmente en sus comunidades como ciudadanos activos. Las conclusiones presentan algunas ideas sobre las posibilidades de cambio. En particular, es importante que haya una mayor colaboración entre el gobierno local y programas de educación de infancia temprana, si se quiere preparar e involucrar a los niños pequeños en la toma de decisiones del gobierno local sobre temas que les afecten.

Notes

Acknowledgments

The Young Children as Active Citizens research project was conducted by the School of Education at Flinders University, in collaboration with the Southern Knowledge Transfer Partnership Office at Flinders University. We thank Penny Crocker, Head of the Southern Knowledge Transfer Partnership Office, for her involvement in the project. Finally, thanks to the local government staff who completed the survey.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clare Bartholomaeus
    • 1
  • Carolyn Gregoric
    • 1
  • Susan Krieg
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Flinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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