The research. Campbell, A. (2004). The voice of the child in family law: Whose right; who's right? Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of South Australia, Adelaide.. The children. From 11 different families4 girls, 4 boys aged 7-10; 1 girl, 4 boys aged 11-14; 2 young women, 1 young man aged
1. Children’s understandings of their rights in decisions about them
Dr Alan Campbell, University of South Australia
“Cos if a child was fairly strong on not seeing a parent, there’d have to be something really wrong”
2. The research
Campbell, A. (2004). The voice of the child in family law: Whose right; who’s right? Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of South Australia, Adelaide.
3. The children From 11 different families
4 girls, 4 boys aged 7-10; 1 girl, 4 boys aged 11-14; 2 young women, 1 young man aged 15-17
time since the parents separated varied from between 1 and 10 years; mean time just over five years
4. The children (2) Amy (9), Brenda (7), Kane (13) and Olivia (9) were very young when the separation occurred. Daniel (10), Ellen (9) and Laurence (16) were much older.
Daniel lived for equal time with both parents; Petra (13) with relatives; and the others with their mums.
Iain (7), Jonathan (7) and Kane (13) never saw their fathers; Laurence (16), Matthew (11), Nick (13 and Olivia (9) saw them during holidays; the other saw them regularly.
5. The discussion concepts of children’s rights and ‘best interests’
exploration of children’s perceptions of their place in decision-making processes
children’s views of living arrangements
6. Children’s rights
Ellen (9): Rights and wrongs?
Q: Yeah, kind of like that.
Ellen (9): That, mm, if you get something right it's a tick or if you get something wrong you get a cross.
Daniel (10): Well, they should, you should have reasonable rights to do, sometimes do what, what you think you should. And sometimes rights which you think you shouldn't. …yeah, don't just go along with what people say, like, learn to say no. And, like if someone says, 'Hey, check this out, here, try this’, a drug or something, I'd just say, 'Nup’.
Callum (10): Like, you should have the right to go to the tap and get a drink, and stuff like that. Mm. Like if you want to go outside you should have the right to do that. It's not like your parents can go, ‘I don't want you to go outside you can stay in here’. Should have a bit of a say.
Petra (13): Rights. Um, I don't really, but I know, I've never really been taught about them that much, but I just, I've picked up along the line that, you know, we have got a say, and it's not right if we don't. Um, if we, we have the right to learn, so no one can stop us from learning.
Laurence (16): Just, I don't know, like rights to an education, rights to having um, food and a place to live and I don't know what, just like (7 sec) yeah, and rights for them to choose what they want to do, live their own life, kind of thing, is what, is a fairly important one.
Nick (13): Um, I know the ones that, the right to feel safe, I think is one, but the right to be clothed, to have shelter, to be cared for and not to be abused. The right to, I think to be educated, is that one of the rights? … Um, yeah, that, I think those kind of rights are very important, um, the right to, I think the right to have friends would be a very important thing. The right to be heard and not, yes, um, yeah, definitely to be heard.
Daniel (10): it's your decision to have rights that you actually want.
Amy (9): It's mainly not really rights. He [her father] mainly doesn't really tell me off or anything, so I mainly just ride my horse, that's all I really do.
13. Q: You make decisions about where you’re going to meet and who’s, who’s gonna be there?
Daniel (10): Yeah, we get to choose who, who we want to be there; but it’s our parents who give us the A-OK for us to be able to go…
Q: How does that feel, Daniel?
Daniel (10): Well, it's OK. Cos we can, I can tell that obviously our parents care for us. Cos, like, if we just ran off then we might get in trouble and they won't know.
14. Q: What happens about parties and things like that?
Petra (13): Parties. Um, if I get an invitation to a party, I'm allowed to go, cos it's usually a birthday, unless I've been you know, like, really bad, … And that's fair because that would be a punishment, cos I love going to parties.
15. Q: Who should make those kinds of decisions about when you do your homework?
Gemma (15): I think I should, cos I’m the one doing it.
Harry (13): You’d be doing Internet all day, Gemma.
Fran (17): I think the parents should have a fairly big say in that, because …
Gemma (15): Yeah, but they shouldn’t, like, push, cos then they, I, I’m, I hate it when people do that, it’s annoying.
16. Children and ‘best interests’ Nick (13): Oh, yeah. Yes, I've heard of that. Um, children's best interests, what really are they, it's kind of so unbelievably general. …I think that in best interests is not really the children's opinion at all, it's what other people think is best for them. So it's kind of making the decision for them and not listening to what they have to say, by um, stereotyping their best interests. That is what they think would be best for them, but not necessarily is.
Nick (13): Yeah. Cos you can't really say that every single child is going to have a best interest and this is it. That it's in their best interest to do this and we say that's so, so the people are just deciding what other people's best interests are for them. And what's good. Like saying, This is what's good for you when it might necessarily not be.
Fran (17): The sort of things that are overlooked or not known without good investigation on both parties and you know, personally trying to get to know the parents a little more, and the child.
19. Nick (13): Yeah. If there, there definitely should be some times when other people, um, it's possible that they do know best for you and that you don't know everything, and that you don't know that what you're doing is the right thing. And that …maybe you should listen to them instead of thinking that you can make every decision. But there are so many times when you should be able to make decisions and people don't know what's best for you.
Olivia (9): Well, I don't think that parents should say that they don't know what they want because, well, they do. Um, but some kids don't know what's best for them, so, just say they were on, they couldn't eat lots and lots of junk food …and then they got their way and they got really fat, that's not good for them.
Petra (13): What's best for me? Um, I don't always know what's best for me, I, like I know what I want, but it's not always the best for me, and my auntie and uncle and my mum and dad …tell me, if they think something's not right for me, and I'll listen if I'm smart enough, …
Petra (13): I think that's crap. Because um, I always, like, and it's not just me, everyone I know always knows what they want. … so I think that just, that adults that say that are wrong because, …I think everyone knows what they want.
23. Decision-making Laurence (16): Um, Mum and Dad went to the Family Court, but not so much about um, custody of the kids. It was pretty much always, I don't know, sort of known that, I don't know why, like it was just kind of seemed, I don't know, normal that …we would live with Mum, so that wasn't fought over too much
Nick (13): I can't exactly remember, I think that was a decision cos we were so young, it was better that we lived with Mum or something, I can't remember, but …
Nick (13): Oh, I remember another reason was um, cos Dad, he works in, he's wool classing, and cos that involves like staying at a shed for seven days at a time and he would, that'd mean he wouldn't be able to look after us, so it was more sense as well, to stay with Mum. Yeah.
25. Callum (10): I don't know. My friend lives with his dad and I find that a bit weird somehow. With his two brothers. It's just all boys.
Q: Yeah. Weird?
Callum (10): Yeah. You see...I don't know why, but you should live with your mum, or and your dad, but you should live with your mum, mostly. I don't know why, but...
26. Q: Tell me a bit more about children’s rights to have a voice.
Nick (13): I think if people, if like children aren't allowed to speak out and be heard by people they kind of think that they never will, and if they do speak out their opinions can be heard, and sometimes a lot of children's opinions are more logical or sometimes sensible than a lot of ones that adults might have.
27. Q: I’ve been reading about, if you want young people and children to be involved more, you have to involve them right from the start. …What do you think about those kinds of comments?
Kane (13): Yeah, I think they're good, kids should be involved from the start. If you're gonna do something that affects them, and yeah, they should have some say of how it's, how it looks and stuff.
28. Q: One of the other rights was to do with children’s rights to have an opinion and be heard. What do you think about that?
Laurence (16): I think that's probably important, cos you, pretty, if you have, a, if you don't have any say in your own life it would be a pretty bad life, I reckon, …the whole thing about making choices is that you kind of enjoy life, kind of thing cos you have to.
Callum (10): Ah, ...Um...Hmm. I'm not sure, um, how much they see their dad, or whoever they're with, mum or dad , um how much they see their friends, um, oh, if they need to get out more, or do some more stuff cos they're too bored. Stuff like that.
Fran (17): Well we should have been allowed to make our decision because we obviously knew that we did not want to stay with Dad, and we were just basically forced by him to live there and I don't think that's very fair.
Um, well, I think everything, but they don't necessarily have to … do what they say, they just have to listen to what they say and comprehend it and take everything they say into account as an opinion. Um, like everyone else. So that everyone's equal, and like we don't have everyone older telling everyone younger what to do
Daniel (10): So, the person who we went to, the, they decided to do the switching over weeks one...cos it's fairer.
Ellen (9): It's not very fair, because, um, if [I] don't get to see him in the week, like, it's not really fair, cos you only get to see him twice every week, or every second week.
Laurence (16): I don't think that there's really a way that you could solve it completely. Like, satisfactorily, …cos there's always going to have to be a time when you're not with like, one or the other parent, so there's no way that you could make it completely ah, to work, …and there's no real way that you could um, make, that I could think of anyway, that you could make it totally fair, like.