'We Have A Lot To Say': What Matters To Aussie Kids In 2018?

Feeling safe, having a say and ... the goings-on of Tony Abbott.

Like many kids, Sydney Greenacre is an avid sports fan who enjoys a skateboard with his dad and playing cricket for his local club.

The 11-year-old attends a primary school north of Melbourne, and has noticed our country's Prime Ministers "aren't staying Prime Ministers for very long".

And he's not a fan of Tony Abbott's newest appointment as special envoy for Indigenous Affairs. 

"I feel like it's strange that he was put in charge of Indigenous people. He's done a lot of stuff that they don't really like," Sydney told ten daily.

Sydney has a point -- one echoed by some Indigenous Australians who were insulted when the former Prime Minister was offered the role by new Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

"I think, in lots of places, kids have a lot to say, and adults don't really listen."

He was one of 18 school children and teens across the country to have their voices heard at an event in Melbourne on Friday.

The National Child and Youth Forum delivered findings from two surveys based on  kids' rights and opportunities to contribute in their daily lives.

Over 32,000 children and teenagers took part in the surveys developed by The University of Melbourne and National Children's Commissioner Megan Mitchell, who will report to the United Nations on Australia's progress in meeting its international law obligations in November.

Children's Commissioner Megan Mitchell. Image: Australian Human Rights Commission

"I wanted to make sure that children's voices were front and centre, so I could tell both stories: where Aussie kids are doing okay and where we need to be doing better," Mitchell told ten daily.

"We will use what these young people have told us, and will back it up with other data."

The top three rights chosen by children were feeling safe, being cared for and having a home, and being able to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

When asked about rights which were true in their lives, children were least likely to say that they can get accurate information when needed.

Children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds were more likely to say they wanted to be treated fairly and have a say.

"Just like the rest of us, I think they are a bit confused by what's going on around them," Mitchell said.
'Kids as digital natives'

The survey found few gender disparities, barring the online space, where a greater proportion of boys felt they had more control -- an area Mitchell said warrants further analysis.

"A lot of things may be happening online which would make girls feel less safe," she said.

It's also where a greater proportion of boys are going to learn about their rights.

"Thinking about kids as digital natives is a very different kind of human being. We need to tap into them as being experts of their own lives and their experiences, and the ones who will be able to solve these issues if we engage with them," Mitchell said.
Children want to have their say. Image: Australian Human Rights Commission
'Kids as contributors'

While kids are increasingly becoming "digital natives", Sydney wants to make sure they're putting down the video games.

"I think it's really important kids are getting out there and doing stuff in the community," he said.

Sydney and his friend, who teach at their local sports club, worked on the 'Kids Contribute' survey that found those who were contributing more also showed higher levels of resilience.

Approximately half of those surveyed said while they received pocket money, they were more likely to be motivated by feeling proud or helping others.

Above all, he wants kids to have their say -- and so too does the Commissioner.

"There are so many untapped ideas and energy for young people to be engaged and involved in our democratic process," she said, noting a recent Senate inquiry into lowering the voting age.

"They are active parts of the community who are, on the whole, pretty well informed. They are citizens; they have rights, and I think they deserve much more of a say."

Contact the author: ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au.