The upcoming Voice referendum and related First Nations issues have sparked conversations on TV, social media, and in our everyday lives.
Perhaps your child has approached you with curiosity and questions about The Voice or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Or maybe you’re looking to introduce them to these important topics but aren’t sure where to start.
It’s never too early to teach children the true history and rich culture of our First Nations Peoples.
“It’s important to address these issues as First Nations issues are issues for all Australians to navigate,” says Kate Lloyd, RAQ Senior Clinical Supervisor.
But there are a few crucial things to keep in mind to ensure the conversation is age-appropriate and your child can engage in a meaningful way.
Kate offers some helpful guidance for parents and carers to talk to their kids about The Voice here.
Ask them what they know
Don’t assume your child’s existing level of knowledge – let them show you, tell you, and teach you their worldview.
Finding out what they already know or think about The Voice is a great place to start.
You might ask “What have you heard about The Voice to Parliament?” and then listen carefully to what they have to say, keeping an ear out for anything you’d like to explore further with them, and allowing this to guide the rest of your conversation.
Keep it age-appropriate
The best way to approach any serious conversation with a child is to tailor your language and details around their individual development and needs.
Use simple, clear language and consider whether certain details are appropriate for their age. For example, a 5-year-old may not understand the concept of racist microaggressions or may be scared by specific details of abuse.
Depending on your child’s age, you may even like to keep it light and fun with an activity that encourages your child to connect with First Nations culture.
Consider using age-appropriate resources such as the picture book ‘Finding Our Heart – A Story About The Uluru Statement for Young Australians’ read by Tony Armstrong for Play School Story Time in this video.
Former AFL star Adam Goodes has a collection of children’s books inviting kids to connect with First Nations culture, including ‘Somebody’s Land: Welcome to Our Country’.
You can also find photos and videos of children celebrating NAIDOC Week and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day around the country online. This is a great way to increase your child’s exposure to First Nations Peoples and culture among their peers.
Maintain an open dialogue
This shouldn’t be a one-and-done conversation. Encourage your child to ask questions and share their thoughts with you during the referendum debate and beyond.
Create a safe space for your child to feel free to share – even if their views and ideas are different to yours or others’.
Remember that it’s OK not to have all the answers. Work together on the unknowns and uncertainties, and seek trustworthy resources to fill the gaps. This is a great opportunity to increase your own knowledge and understanding of First Nations issues.
Make respect a priority
Keep the safety and respect of First Nations Peoples top of mind however you intend to vote.
Your child will be far more influenced by a conversation with you than anything they see or hear from the media or a third party. So be sure to model respectful language and kindness, regardless of your beliefs.
We offer some practical ways to consider the safety and respect of First Nations Peoples leading up the referendum here.
Be aware of your own emotions and sensitive to your child’s
Opinions and feelings are strong on both sides of The Voice debate.
It’s important to know your own vulnerabilities and feelings around the topic so you can address and manage these before you approach a conversation with your child.
Lead Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement and Cultural Advisor Aunty Debra Bennet reminds us: “Our children are precious.”
Be sensitive to your child’s feelings, and take breaks if you notice they’re experiencing strong emotions.
We understand this topic may raise difficult emotions for some people. Help is available.
RAQ offers culturally safe counselling and support services for First Nations Peoples. You can call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment or get help finding the right support for you.
For 24/7 crisis support, call 13YARN on 13 92 76 to talk with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter.
Kids Helpline provides 24/7 support to children and young people with phone counselling and webchat counselling: 1800 55 1800.