Authors: Dr Mary Tomsic
Dr Mary Tomic’s work with children and young people who have experienced forced migration is informed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In this article, she shares her research on how children and young people’s artistic expression can help us understand their experiences of being in detention and seeking refuge through the lens of child rights.
Children and young people’s artwork is often viewed through an archetypal lens that views children as apolitical. A more nuanced approach is to view their artistic expressions as active political understandings. Dr Tomic argues that we undervalue children by not recognising their evolving capacity.
A guiding principle in the Convention is that children have a right to express their own views freely on matters that affect them so we need to take children’s expressions through illustration seriously. This can been achieved by efforts that aim for political activism and aim to raise awareness of the detention regime on children, for example:
These illustrations can be read as political expression rather than just as emotional expressions of victimhood to generate sympathy or policy change. In fact, Dr Tomic argues that the inquiry drawings reveal children’s political understandings, displaying the following features:
Using a child rights lens can strengthen the argument for freedom for these children and for a life that can meet the aims of Article 27 of the Convention: Parties recognise the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
Articles from the Convention addressed in this paper:
Listen to Dr Tomic talk about child rights in this short video
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