Addressing who is not at the table?: Including diverse children’s ‘Voices’ in ‘Participatory’ Processes

Dr Lisa Stafford1

1Queensland University of Technology

It is hard not to find some reference to how being involved in public discourse and policy is every citizen’s fundamental right. Yet, exercising this right is privileged for only a certain few.  There are many voices who are not being recognised and thus invited to the participatory democratic table.  And if invited, restrictive processes permit some a platform while denying others “voices”. Children, in particular, children with disabilities, are one of the most marginalised voices when it comes to participatory processes in public engagement and research processes. Children with disabilities are rarely recognised as being a citizen and thus rarely provided the opportunity within “participatory” processes to comment on matters that affect their lives now and into the future. Questions over legitimacy of “voices” is often heard as an excuse for excluding children, particularly those with a disability or in systems like child safety. This is reinforced by Ableist and Adultist thinking.  In this presentation, I seek to dispel these assumptions, through presenting participant focused research and engagement processes that provide children with and without disabilities an opportunity to have their voices heard, to be acknowledged and to be treated as knowledgeable citizens with valid perspectives.


Dr Lisa Stafford, is an Lecturer in School of Public Health and Social Work and a 2019 ARC DECRA Fellow.
She is a social scientist, human geographer and social planner. Her research is in inclusive communities, disabled children and diverse children geographies, and participatory process to hear the most maginalised ‘voices’ in community and research practices

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