New Zealand’s youngest residents voted in favour of changing our country’s flag. Most children did not seem to have been influenced at all by any political talk about the flag or even the views of high profile New Zealanders like the Prime Minister and Richie McCaw.
More than 400 children in early childhood services around the country took part in the vote organised by ChildForum to run alongside the national referendum for adults which has been taking place over the past month.
When the votes were counted, 55% were in favour of changing to the new design while 45% wanted to keep the current flag.
Interestingly, many children did not recognise what the silver fern part of the flag was meant to symbolise with suggestions that it was a feather, a leaf or even a tree. The stars were noted as a favourite part of both flags.
ChildForum’s spokesperson Warwick Marshall said “The vote shows that even young children can express their preferences and are capable of participating in democracy. Their voting decisions were not influenced by politics so it will be interesting to see how closely the result of the adult referendum mirrors the choice of our youngest citizens”.
Mr Marshall added that while some children said their choice reflected the choice made by their parents or an older sibling many children chose their favourite flag independently of parents or other influences and all chose the flag they wanted.
“This gives a point of view based more on the actual design elements of the flag rather than any political or historical bias. And it ignited an interest and gave teachers an opportunity to see children’s understanding of the symbolism to follow up on, for example that rather than being a feather the silver fern is unique to NZ and was used by Maori to guide through forests at night”.
The services that took part were able to choose their own methods of gathering votes. At some centres, voting was done at mat time while others decided to ask the children while they were playing in small groups or alone.
At Mana Montessori in Wellington, children were given the opportunity to enter a polling booth and tell a teacher which flag they had chosen before being given a sticker to show they had voted.
ChildForum also ran a previous children’s referendum during the initial flag choice voting period in which children chose the silver fern, red and white design as their favourite.
436 children took part at 15 early childhood centres across New Zealand. All children were under 6 years with the youngest around 2.6 years.
Of the 430 votes that were counted 55% wanted the silver fern flag and 45% wanted the current Union Jack flag. Six votes weren’t counted as those children wanted to have both flags.
A gender difference was noted in the votes counted. Boys were slightly more likely to choose the current flag (47% compared with 43% girls), whereas the silver fern flag received a higher proportion of the girls’ vote (57% compared with 53% boys who voted for this).
The participating early childhood services were:
Kakano Early Childhood Centre, Clendon, Auckland
Andersons Bay Community Kindergarten, Dunedin
Dorie Preschool, Rakaia, Mid-Canterbury
Tikipunga Kindergarten, Northland Kindergarten Assn, Whangarei
Samoa Taumafai Aoga Amata, Tokoroa
Ole Schoolhouse, Rotorua
Mana Montessori, Whitby, Wellington
Hokowhitu Children’s Centre, Palmerston North
Lake Terrace Preschool, Christchurch
Rotorua Community Crèche and Kindergarten, Rotorua
Gisborne Community Early Education Centre, Gisborne
Chelsea House Early Childhood Centre, Paraparaumu, Wellington
Giggles Learning Centres, Whangarei
Pukehina EduCare, Te Puke, Bay of Plenty
Farm Friends, Swanson, Auckland