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The Australian National University

Research & publications

Children, Communities and Social Capital in Australia

Building strong communities, fostering social inclusion and strengthening social capital have been key elements of social policy agendas in Australia in recent years.  Policies often assume children will benefit from community strengthening and social inclusion initiatives, or assume that children can act as a catalyst for bringing adults together. But what do children themselves say about community?  How do children define community?  What do they value about community and what would they change if given the option?

This ARC funded research project explores children’s views and experiences of community and aims to increase understanding of community and community strengthening initiatives from a child-centred perspective.  It will contribute to policies and programs being responsive and child-inclusive.  To date research has been undertaken with 86 children in five communities across three states.

Funded by an ARC Linkage Grant of $91,722 over three years, commencing in Feburuary 2010.

Collaborating researchers: Dr S Bessell, Professor J Mason, Ms A Michaux, Dr A Nevile
Partner Organisations: The Benevolent Society, NAPCAN
Administering Institution: The Australian National University

Report launched by the National Children's Commissioner

On 13 March 2014, National Children's Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, launched the report of the Australian Research Council funded Children, Communities and Social Capital project. Putting the pieces in place: Children, communities and social capital in Australia is based on research with more than 100 children in six communities in eastern Australia to find out what they thought about their communities and what they would like to change.

The report, authored by Dr Sharon Bessell with Emeritus Professor Jan Mason, provides important insights into the aspects of Australian communities that support children and those that fail them. It examines the ways in which communities can be strengthened from the standpoint of children. The report documents how excessive use of alcohol, aggressive drivers and the threat of violence make children feel unsafe in their communities. It also highlights the importance of strong, caring relationships.

What Makes Quality Education: Perspectives and Experiences of Children and Young People in Fiji?

Education is a key element of social and development policy globally. While policy success in education in countries of the Global South is generally measured by enrolment rates, there is an increasing focus on the quality of education and on learning outcomes. Debates about education are, however, highly adult-centric and the views and perspectives of children are rarely heard. Focusing on Fiji, this research explores the question of what makes quality education from the perspective of children and young people.

Central to this research was a the Children and Young People’s Forum on Education in Fiji was held in June 2009, in collaboration with Save the Children Fiji.

Read the report from the Children and Young People’s Forum [PDF, 2346KB] on Education in Fiji.

Relevant prior research

  • Children’s experiences and views of physical and emotional punishment (2005-06)

    Dr Sharon Bessell, Dr Harriot Beazley (University of Queensland), Dr Judith Ennew (Knowing Children, University of Malaya), Associate Professor Roxana Waterson (National University of Singapore)

    Funding Source: Save the Children Sweden

    This research records what 3,322 children from eight countries in the Southeast Asia and the Pacific region told researchers about everyday, common violence - both physical and emotional - used as punishment against them. It used a systematic, scientific approach, which sought information about children’s knowledge, experiences and views, using appropriate methods through which they could express themselves easily and without being harmed.

    » view the monograph
    » view the research protocol [PDF, 678KB]
    (including details of our methodology, methods used and ethical considerations
  • Child Labour Work Book: Rights-Based Situational Analysis Data Collection and Report Writing (2006)

    Dr Sharon Bessell and Dr Judith Ennew

    Funding Source: Save the Children Sweden

    This research resulted in a Work Book, designed to be used in any country in the world, provides tools and step-by-step instructions on what data to collect and where to find it. Clear directions are provided on writing a situation analysis on working children and child labour, within overall national contexts. Such contextual situation analysis will develop better understanding of the circumstances of working children, and result in focused programme responses for better protection of working children and the fulfilment of their rights.

    » view Child Labour Workbook [PDF,274KB]

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