Internationally, there is a growing trend for children and young people to participate in decisions affecting their lives (Bellamy 2002; Hart 1997). The active participation of children and young people is clearly articulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). However, despite the international movement towards children's participation, there are precious few opportunities for Australian children and young people to contribute to policy and research debate in a sustainable manner. A review of the literature demonstrates that there are few ongoing research or policy advisory groups made up of children and young people, and those that are operational are generally auspiced by Children's Commissioners (e.g. New South Wales) and policy offices addressing the issues of children and young people.
In Western Australia, when children and young people are consulted, the dialogues tend to be short-term and issue-specific in nature. This paper will briefly discuss a number of techniques employed to engage Western Australian children and young people in dialogues about important issues affecting their lives. Using these examples, the barriers that challenge efficacious children's and young people's participation are discussed; finally, some suggested ways forward are delineated.