Play Up launch—Adele’s speech
It’s not many twelve year olds who can say that their words have been collected by a national cultural institution but that is exactly what has happened to Adele, a student from Telopea Park School, this week when the Museum formally accessioned her words into the collection.
To understand this story we need to go back several months to Tuesday 18 November, 2014 at the launch of the Museum’s new children’s space Play Up and its first exhibition The Right to Play. At about 10:30am a small girl with glasses walked up to a podium in King’s Hall directly in front of the imposing bronze statue of King George the Fifth. In order to reach the microphone she stood on a small stool, gazed out at her audience and gave a speech that electrified her audience with its passion and conviction for children’s rights.
In recognition of the significance of these words, the Museum has formally accessioned her speech into the collection where it will be in good company with Tony Abbott’s Afghanistan speech and Kevin Rudd’s formal apology to the Stolen Generation.
This decision is testament to the Museum’s commitment to celebrate the importance of young people’s opinions and serves as a timely reminder that children’s voices are vital in a democracy:
Before I begin, I would like to thank the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House for the opportunity to talk with you. I think that it is important that a child is here to address you this morning because, as the Director has just said, this is an exhibition curated WITH and BY children. Children’s voices sometimes get forgotten, left out or ignored. Not in this new exhibition, children’s voices are at the very centre of Play Up and I am honoured to be the child representing all the children in this room and to speak on your behalf.
Now I have a task for you. Close your eyes—adults as well as children.
I want you to imagine a world without play. Go on, imagine your life without wii games, footballs, books, dolls or dress ups. What would it be like?
Forget about all those soccer games at lunch time. No more skipping ropes, no more running races.
NO MORE PLAY
Now open your eyes. What was it like? What if it did happen to you?
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child protects children’s rights. Some of you may not know this but we children do have rights – the Convention is a special set of rules that are set-up to make sure that children everywhere are treated with fairness and respect.
There’s a lots of good bits to this document but Article 31 is the RIGHT TO PLAY.
I think this is a good thing for us all to know so when your parents say “What are you doing playing with that soccer ball when you should be doing your homework” When they say that sort of thing you can say right back ‘I have the legal right as a child to play. It says so in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – Article 31 to be exact.”
Even though sometimes our parents and teachers tell us to stop playing, they should remember that play develops important skills. Things like cooperating and getting on with each other. Thinking creatively and using your imagination can be one of the best forms of play. Did you know that many of the world’s best architects played with LEGO as a child and they say that this was the beginning of their career as a great architect?
PLAY IS GOOD.
This week the Convention on the Rights of the Child is 25 years old. How have things changed in the last twenty five years for children all around the world?
Seriously, despite Article 31 there are many places in the world where children don’t have the chance to play. Clearly, there is still a lot to do.
Here at the museum my class mates and I have recently taken part in a new school program ‘school-in-a-box’. This leads us to another important right identified by the Convention – The Right to an Education.
UNICEF has developed the ‘school-in-a-box’ for communities that have lost their school due to a crisis. Whether it is war or a natural disaster, UNICEF pledge is to have a box sent out to a community within 72 hours in order for children to be able to continue learning. At Telopea Park School my classmates and I are privileged to have great classrooms, playgrounds, teachers and friends to learn with. Experiencing ‘school-in-a-box’ here at the Museum and having the opportunity to speak with Dr Norman Gillespie has given us an insight into what it might mean to have all these things taken away from us.
In the words of Malala Yousafzai, a child who has fought passionately for the rights of young people all of her life:
She says ‘Let us pick up our books and pencils. They are our most powerful weapon’
To that I would add one more thing: ‘Let us take up our voices, for they too are one of our most powerful weapons.’