Fulfilling children’s right to actively engage with the local and broader community of their early childhood education service

Robbie Warren, Charles Sturt University, Australia (

Background: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) recognises the child as a right holder and active member of society. In Australia, there has been considerable advancement in rights-based policy in Early Childhood Education (ECE) reflective of this view. However, research suggests policy is not always transferred into educators’ practice. My research, an investigation of educators’ conceptualisation and enactment of children’s rights in exemplary Early Childhood Education (ECE) services, highlighted a positive finding common to all sites. Each ECE service demonstrated embedded practices that recognised and engaged children as active community members.

Aim: This paper aims to explore how educators actively engaged children within the local and broader community of their ECE service and the educators reasoning behind these practices.

Method: This was a qualitative study. The participants were 25 educators in four exemplary rated ECE services in Australia. Data were collected through interviews, focus discussions, photos, and videos of educator practices with children.

Results: The participating educators believed children had a right to be actively engaged within the local and wider community of their ECE service. This belief was demonstrated via a history of civic ties, cultural engagement, and high visibility of these children in public spaces.

Conclusions: Children’s active engagement in their ECE community enables their voice, own sense of identity, builds their view of the world and an understanding of their place in it.

Implications for children: Through engagement with and participation in the local and broader context of your ECE service community, you are becoming a bearer of rights and an active citizen of the world.

Implications for families: Through engagement with your child’s ECE service you are supporting your child to become a capable and responsible right holder, and an active citizen of the world.

Implications for practitioners: By embedding the UNCRC as a framework for practice in your ECE service you will support each child’s development as a capable and responsible right holder. You will build a child’s sense of identity and belonging, in a community that may be different to the one in which they live and fulfil their right to become a bearer of rights and an active citizen of the world.

Funding: Australian Research Council Scholarship

Key words: children’s rights, children’s voices, educator’s voices, professionals’ voices, wellbeing, education, belonging, culture, community, urban communities, regional communities, qualitative methods, sustainability, theory.

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: