Why we all need to put children first
November 20 was the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 1989, world leaders made a commitment to the children of the world, recognising them as rights-holders and pledging to children themselves to protect them, support them to reach their full potential, and to know peaceful, prosperous and secure futures.
Many countries – 196 – including Australia, have become State Parties to the Convention. When Australia signed up 30 years ago, we made a commitment to promote and protect children’s rights to flourish regardless of nationality, religion or abilities. How well are we doing?
Dr Cindy Blackstock, an influential professor who has 25 years of social work experience in children’s rights, believes we need a mindset where we ‘put children first in everything we do’. I have been thinking about what this idea of ‘putting children first’ might look like in terms of my everyday actions.
How might ‘putting children first’ influence me in terms of living and working with integrity, in remembering my duty to be morally courageous, loving, kind, patient and fair in all my interactions? How might it support me in my imagination for reconciliation, wellbeing, health, sustainability, social justice, and peace?
Polio vaccine inventor Dr Jonas Salk once suggested that the most important question we can ask ourselves is ‘are we being good ancestors?’ It is a good question. Our actions and choices have consequences. Not just for ourselves.
Everything we do has an impact, and ultimately will influence children’s futures in some way. We can make the world a better and kinder place for ourselves and for others. We just need the courage and conviction to do it.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is incredibly relevant today. Children are our greatest asset and most valuable resource. As adults we are obligated to honour and respect the rights of every child.
For those of us who parent or teach, listening to children is a first step to considering children’s rights. The warmth of our presence and caring attention offers children support.
But, everything we do has a ripple effect of sorts, whether we have direct involvement with children or not. What will you do to ‘put children first’ and ‘be a good ancestor’ today?
Dr Ali Black is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of the Sunshine Coast.