Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

The Catholic theological tradition recognises the intrinsic, unsurpassable value of children's lives. Safeguarding their wellbeing in organisational and institutional contexts is, therefore, paramount. This unit is based on the Re-imagining Childhood Initiative (CESA 2014) that foregrounds the dignity of children, acknowledging them as competent and accomplished beings. The unit explores the constructs of childhood from sociological, anthropological, cultural, psychological, historical and philosophical perspectives. The unit's major focus will be on the nature of childhood from a Christian perspective, developing a rich theology of childhood. Participants will be required to bring this knowledge into critical dialogue with their own belief stance, and assess its implications for safeguarding the wellbeing of children and developing an appropriate culture in Catholic organisations/institutions.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - critically reflect on ways, in working with teams, to increase understanding of the broad range of conceptualisations of childhood in contemporary scholarship, in relation to wellbeing and safety of children and young people (GA1, GA4; AQF8 Kn1, Sk1, Ap1; SCYP 2.5, 4.1, 4.2, 5.4)

LO2 - provide a critical and nuanced account of a theology of childhood from the perspective of the major beliefs of Catholic faith and apply this account to the task of safeguarding children's wellbeing in organisational/institutional contexts, particularly Catholic settings (GA4; GA9; AQF8 Kn1, Sk1, Ap1; SCYP 2.3, 4.1) 

LO3 - articulate effective strategies to assist others to develop deep understandings of Catholic moral and social teaching on the dignity and sacredness of children (GA1, GA2; AQF8 Kn1, Sk1, Ap1; SCYP 2.5, 4.1, 4.2, 5.4)

LO4 - evaluate the most effective ways to develop understanding of the settings in which children are vulnerable (GA2, GA4; AQF8 Kn1, Sk1, Ap1; SCYP 2.3, 4.1, 4.2).

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Alongside the learning outcomes for this unit, on successful completion, students should have developed the ability to:

ACU SCYP 2:   Foster child-safe organisational cultures and environments through leadership, governance, and practice

2.3       Addresses the attitudes, beliefs and values of staff and communities about children and young people, sexual abuse and other types of abuse to support child-safe behaviours 

2.5       Applies legal, ethical and professional 

ACU SCYP 4:   Facilitate children and young people’s engagement in child-centred participatory processes, including those that enable and respond to disclosures and complaints

4.1       Demonstrates an understanding of child and adolescent development and the needs of different groups of children and young people and applies them in their participatory processes

4.2       Involves children and young people and includes their perspectives  in addressing and preventing risk and promoting protective factors in institutions/organisations

ACU SCYP 5:   Apply sex education and sexual abuse prevention models to address the safety needs of children and young people 

5.4       Knows the learning needs of children and young people to prevent, manage and seek help when exposed to risks of harm


Topics will include:

  • Conceptualisations of childhood (sociological, anthropological, historical, socio-economic, and psychological) in relation to the wellbeing and safety of children and young people
  • The Catholic theological tradition in relation to childhood and children:
  • Creation: coming to be in relationship
  • Children and human brokenness (original sin)
  • Children in the ministry of Jesus
  • Children and the experience of grace: “close to the mystery of God”
  • Catholic moral and social teaching, valuing the dignity and sacredness of children
  • Close investigation of the implications of UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
  • Implications of a theology of childhood for the safeguarding of children’s wellbeing in organisational/institutional contexts, particularly Catholic settings
  • The identity and role of professional staff/counsellors/ leaders in developing and applying a theology of childhood.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is offered in multi-mode (i.e. delivered online and in face-to-face contexts) and uses an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of the essential knowledge associated with the theology and sociology of childhood. Students will explore key issues and develop a deeper contextualised understanding of the theological meaning of childhood, and of children’s flourishing and safety through online asynchronous activities and where appropriate synchronous online webinars. Where appropriate, part or all of the unit may be delivered face to face. The use of LEO will be integral to the unit. Other activities may include lectures and reading, self-directed learning, participant critical reflection against relevant professional standards with particular reference to case studies, engagement with the literature, dialogue and interrogation of concepts, theories and practices, and the application to current professional contexts.

Directed study includes activities such lectures, tutorials, webinars, podcasts etc. The balance of the hours is private study and practice and assessment preparation.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The focus of the assessments enable participants to draw on their professional knowledge, unit content and relevant literature to develop a theological and sociological viewpoint relevant to safeguarding practices. By synthesizing the key learnings through the assessment tasks, participants will develop a theology which will enact ethical and respectful safeguarding practices with children and young people in line with best practice and legal frameworks.

The assessment will relate directly to the achievement of the outcomes above. Some flexibility may be exercised in the assessment tasks to align with the needs of the student cohort and their professional situation.

The total assessment will be equivalent to 5,000 words (Graduate Certificate). In order to pass this unit, participants will be required to submit and pass all assessment tasks.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1 

Written Task – for example: essay

(2,000 words) 



GA4, GA5

Assessment Task 2

Critical Reflection

For example: integrative response to Journal

(1,000 words)


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5

Assessment Task 3

Communication Task

For example: a series of online forum posts, responding to key readings and in dialogue with the participant’s professional context

(2,000 words)


LO1, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA4, GA9

Representative texts and references

Burke, C. (2004). “Theories of Childhood,” in Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society

Corsaro, W. A. (2014). The sociology of childhood (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

James, A., & Prout, A. (2015). Constructing and reconstructing childhood: Contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood(3rd ed.). Abingdon, Oxon.: Routledge.

Rinaldi, C. (2013). Re-imagining childhood: The inspiration of Reggio Emilia education principles in South Australia. Adelaide: Government of South Australia.

Dillen, A. “Theologizing with Children: A New Paradigm for Catholic Religious Education in Belgium.” In International Handbook of Catholic Education: Challenges for School Systems in the 21st Century. Ed. Gerald Grace and Joseph O’Keefe. 347-66. Dodrecht: Springer, 2007.

Grajczonek, J., & Ryan, M. (2014). Growing in wisdom: Religious education in Catholic primary schools and early childhood. Hamilton, Qld.: Lumino.

Hinsdale, M. A. (2001). “‘Infinite Openness to the Infinite’: Karl Rahner’s Contribution to Modern Catholic Thought on the Child,” in The Child in Christian Thought. Ed. Marcia J. Bunge. 406-45. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Mercer, J. A. (2005). Welcoming children: A practical theology of childhood. St Louis, MO: Chalice.

Mountain, V. (2011). “Four links between Child Theology and Children’s Spirituality.” International Journal of Children’s Spirituality 16, no. 3: 261-69,

Rahner, K. (1971). “Ideas for a Theology of Childhood.” Theological Investigations Volume VIII: Further Theology of the Spiritual Life. Trans. David Bourke. 33-50. New York: Herder & Herder.

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