COVID-19 has resulted in a range of diverse experiences felt by children and young people, impacting them in both positive and negative ways. However, their lived experience and expertise often go unsought and unacknowledged in decision making.
Therefore, we are calling on our politicians to purposefully include the views of children and young people around decisions that directly affect them.
Participation and involvement in the world in which we live, and in the systems that govern our lives, is a basic human right.
Participation is about offering children and young people agency and a role in shaping the world in which they live, learn and play – the world in which they exist today as well as the one they will ultimately inherit.
The outcomes of decisions made over the last 18 months, and of those decisions that lie ahead, will have impacts that last for decades. It will be our children and young people who will inherit and take on the responsibility of fixing these issues in the future. It is on us to change the current systems, the ones we inherited and the ones we created, to allow for young people to meaningfully contribute and have their say in policy decision making.
As Australia implements its National Plan to transition the National COVID-19 Response, and as state and territory governments shift out of lockdown (for example, through the Victorian Roadmap), major planning is taking place to determine how things like school, work, sport, travel, religious worship and social life will function in the future in face-to-face, online and blended forms.
It is vital that children and young people’s views are captured and responded to in ways which are ethical, meaningful, and representative.
We welcomed the recent release of the federal government’s Youth Policy Framework, which acknowledged the diverse impacts of COVID-19 on young Australians and the many other issues young Australians care about. It also recognised their wish to be engaged in ways which are interactive and culturally appropriate, and include a mix of face-to-face and online options that all lead to meaningful change.
As services which work regularly with children, young people and their families and communities, we would welcome the opportunity to offer our skills, experience and networks to support a deeper engagement of children and young people in state, territory and national decision-making at this significant time.
We must listen to, act with and be accountable to our youngest citizens.