Around 300 children in the Wellington region aged 5-12 got a taste of democracy in action during the General Election thanks to the efforts of independent theatre company Barbarian Productions.
With support from the National Commission, the group set up a mock polling station at Vogelmorn Bowling Club and invited children to cast their vote and campaign for what they believed in. Children from local schools also visited during the lead up to the election.
“With the Kids’ Polling Booth we wanted to offer children an opportunity to experience firsthand the embodied experience of voting – actually going into the booth and making the choice for themselves, then posting into the ballot box,” says Head Clown Thomas LaHood.
“We also wanted to create a space encouraging children to come forward with their own ideas, concerns and political voices. We are always very inspired working with children, and especially so in these areas of civic rights and responsibilities and social values.”
Thomas says company members were ‘thrilled’ with the response, both from the school groups that visited them over the week and from the general public.
“The children showed huge enthusiasm for the chance to participate and it led some fascinating group discussions, particularly during the school visits. The turnout on Election Day itself was impressive, and the announcement of the results was the highlight for many attendees of our Election Night Party event.”
Consistent political themes that emerged from the voting were care for animals and the natural environment, greater resourcing for police, welfare for those in poverty or homeless communities and greater resourcing for the education sector.
Some feedback from the day:
“Thank you so much for organising this. It’s been a great opportunity to teach our daughter a bit about the electoral process. She’s enjoyed casting her vote and we have used it as a good way of starting conversations. And it’s been lots of fun! Thanks so much and we hope you get to do it again!” – Sophie (parent)
“It feels like you can make a difference.” – Dashkin (8)
“I didn’t know there were so many parties. I could only remember like four.” – Unknown participant
“It was good because it gave us a chance to do something we’re usually not allowed to and it was fun.” – Unknown participant (10)
“I loved seeing my son voting.” – Unknown parent
“Is it possible for this to affect the vote next election?” – Unknown participant