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Backing kids in life’s lottery: Behind the scenes of the Paul Ramsay Foundation’s new podcast

7 April 2022 at 7:30 am
Kate Harrison Brennan
The Paul Ramsay Foundation and Impact Studios have created Life’s Lottery: Backing Kids, a podcast on how Australian society values its relationship with children.

Backing kids in life’s lottery: Behind the scenes of the Paul Ramsay Foundation’s new podcast
7 April 2022 at 7:30 am

The Paul Ramsay Foundation and Impact Studios have created Life’s Lottery: Backing Kids, a podcast on how Australian society values its relationship with children.

“We have to understand the complexity of the lives of the most disadvantaged in our community and the way that our institutions, and our service delivery, [are] set up is not fit-for-purpose… It’s important, though, that we don’t dwell on the broken systems as the sort of narrative. We need to start to think about the possibilities here, and to have a much more optimistic and hopeful way of talking about how it can be.”

– Anne Hollonds, national children’s commissioner (Life’s Lottery: Backing Kids podcast, episode one)

When Paul Ramsay left his entire estate to establish the Paul Ramsay Foundation, he opened a new way to think about inter-generational opportunity, and poverty. Just as property is handed down between generations within families that are wealthy, so too is disadvantage. At the Paul Ramsay Foundation we’re focused on breaking these cycles of disadvantage so young people in Australia can realise their potential, and engaging in thought-provoking discussions about ideas, policies and programs that can help achieve this goal.

These discussions have found a new home in the Life’s Lottery podcast, which we launched last year with a successful first season that reached number one on Spotify’s politics and government podcast chart and number one on Apple’s government category. This year we have partnered again with the University of Technology Sydney’s Impact Studios to produce a second season, Life’s Lottery: Backing Kids. The latest episodes explore how Australian society values children and childhood, considering that although kids represent our future, they’re rarely at the centre when it comes to decisions that really matter. What would it take to truly put kids at the heart of policy, of budgets, and public work?

For the foundation, a partnership with award-winning Impact Studios, known for their work at the nexus between research in higher education and civil society, was a wonderful opportunity to design conversations together with a wide reach.

Everyone seems to be making podcasts, but with good reason – Australians really love them. In fact, podcast awareness in Australia is at 98 per cent, compared to 78 per cent in the US. Australian podcast listeners consume an average of five podcasts a week, choosing podcasts that interest, inform and entertain them. During the pandemic, the podcast format has ensured that diverse voices could be brought together, virtually, with an audience. And after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, with significant impact upon children’s physical and mental health, their education and wellbeing, there has never been a better time to hear from people with different perspectives and different types of expertise about how we could better back our kids and improve their odds in life’s lottery.

In the newly launched season, we hear the voices of advocates, experts, children and their parents and caregivers, with bright and practical ideas about how we can improve kids’ health and wellbeing. We’ll deep dive into the federal budget, hear how young First Nations voices have informed policy development, and we’ll consider how place-based, universally accessible services could better reach vulnerable families.

In these conversations, hosted by Professor Glyn Davis AC, CEO of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, and Dr Jeni Whalan, chief strategy officer of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, we meet a Palawa woman and 2022 Young Tasmanian of the Year Kaytlyn Johnson; national children’s commissioner Anne Hollonds; paediatrician and public health physician Professor Sharon Goldfeld; former premier of South Australia and CEO of Thrive by Five Jay Weatherill; Wiradjuri woman and CEO of the Aurora Foundation Leila Smith; and visiting professor of economics of development practice at the London School of Economics and former CEO of Save the Children UK Kevin Watkins.

Throughout each episode, listeners have the opportunity to hear the Ngaalang Moort Sisters “Kedalak”, a lullaby sang by the sisters in Noongar language. It was recorded during the 2020 COVID lockdown and made available by the Community Arts Network (CAN).

Creating the Life’s Lottery podcast in this collaboration has taught the foundation a lot about the significance of “voice”, with plenty more to learn. In the spirit of sharing openly what we think has contributed to success – and where we have room to improve – we can distil three key things we’ve learned. We do so in full acknowledgement that this is a work in progress. 

Design to include not-so-prominent voices

The versatility of the podcast format presents an opportunity to engage with voices that are often unheard, or not heard on their own terms. When treated as appendages of their parents, children are denied the opportunity to co-design the policies and services that affect them. Life’s Lottery: Backing Kids shines a light on the experience of children who are living through intense disruption to their schooling, health and access to extended family and friends. The COVID-19 pandemic presented an “on-ramp” to the cycle of disadvantage for millions, yet for children living in households where disadvantage was already present, the pandemic compounded existing challenges to their wellbeing and development. Life’s Lottery holds space for the insights of children and families experiencing twin pressures of the pandemic and intergenerational poverty. 

Draw on rigorous evidence and share insights and implications widely

Partnering with UTS to produce Life’s Lottery reinforces the foundation’s commitment to being the largest funder of social science research in the country. Our principles of evidence, data and evaluation are suffused throughout the design of the series. Somewhat unusually, we have used narrative segments to explore “what works” and invite partners to share their insights with the podcast audience. This season’s focus on “Backing Kids” arose from extensive consultation with academics, policy practitioners and young people themselves about what was missing from the national conversation. These relationships informed our selection of guests and episode themes, uniting the expertise of academic research and that of lived experience. 

Use the power of storytelling

In a saturated podcast market, Australians choose shows that keep them informed, interested, and entertained. Storytelling is an essential component of Life’s Lottery. Cycles of disadvantage are complex and layered, but not inescapable. Stories of strength, resilience and innovation should take centre-stage. We don’t intend to shift the burden of responsibility but seek to build a critical mass of stories and voices which enhance our knowledge of how cycles operate and highlight the capabilities of communities. Children tell stories like no other age group. We need to gather the common threads running through these stories and feed them into a blueprint for the future.

We hope that by “backing kids”, the voices of kids from around Australia, and those who champion what kids value, will provide listeners with an invaluable opportunity to hear the voices of the future, and feel inspired about ways to change the odds in their favour.

Follow Life’s Lottery: Backing Kids on your favourite podcasting app. 

Share your ideas for future episodes with us here.  

Kate Harrison Brennan  |  @ProBonoNews

Dr Kate Harrison Brennan is the head of policy and engagement at the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

Emma Cross  |  @ProBonoNews

Emma Cross is policy and design officer at the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

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