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