Child-led research as social welfare

Child-led research as social welfare

30 September 2013
Child-led research as social welfare

UnitingCare Children Young People and Families has recently implemented the first Child-Led Research (CLR) program in Australia.

The model was adapted, trialled and evaluated specifically for children living in disadvantaged communities.

The model involves facilitating children’s learning about the research process. Children design a research project on an issue important to them. They gain the skills needed to conduct their own research and present their findings to the community.

The program is intensive and based on two key principles:

  • Children are experts on their own lives who can actively contribute to knowledge about the world; and
  • Adults need to address power issues with children.

Hence, adult engagement with children requires a relationship, not just interaction. There is also strong emphasis on flexible responses to children’s needs as they lead the process.

An independent evaluation report revealed positive wellbeing and educational outcomes for children. CLR within a practice context shows potential to increase children’s communication, problem solving, planning, organisation, and initiative and enterprise skills.

Those seeking to improve children’s welfare and wellbeing can use CLR. It is a tool that is malleable, and can be adapted and shaped to suit the needs of a range of child service users. Children are encouraged to voice their views on their lived experience, including their experience as a service user.

The evaluation findings raised questions about how to let children lead within practice. A range of organisations globally have utilised CLR for the last 12 years, yet practitioners in Australia have engaged in limited discussion about its potential locally, especially within service provision.

A recent journal article that outlines the evaluation results invites others to explore and dialogue on the approach to progress the citizenship of disadvantaged children.

UnitingCare CYPF has demonstrated that children living in communities of disadvantage are capable and can be supported to actively participate in overcoming their own marginalised circumstances. We claim that CLR is not only an innovation in knowledge production and a manifestation of children’s rights, but an effective program for progressing children’s welfare.

For further information contact Samia Michail at or phone (02) 9407 3216.


The feature image is by Hans Splinter, CC BY-ND 2.0.

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Samia Michail

Samia Michail is Principal Researcher, Social Justice Unit, at UnitingCare NSW/ACT.

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