Friday 7 September 2018

Child friendly conferences

We have introduced a Child Friendly policy at the FOSS4G-Oceania conference as part of our "diversity" focus. We are quite proud of it, and think we have reached an effective balance between the competing priorities of:

  • High cost of dedicated childcare.
  • Variability and unpredictability of different aged children.
  • Retaining a professional conference environment.
  • Respecting needs of children, parents, and conference participants.
  • Making our conference accessible to a diverse audience, which includes those responsible for children.
Hopefully other conferences will draw inspiration from our work embrace something similar. This is what we have come up with:

Child Friendly Conference

A child-friendly FOSS4G SotM event

FOSS4G SotM Oceania is aiming to be a child-friendly conference. This means we encourage parents to bring their children (still young enough to require minding) to the event, and for those children to be able to integrate with the community.

How does this work?

The conference Code of Conduct describes expected behaviour for everyone at the conference:

Here are some additional principles for considering children.

As parents, we all know that it is impossible to expect our children to sit quietly for any length of time unless they are engaged with whatever is going on. As such, we request that parents:

  • Be prepared to move in and out of sessions as required by their children.
  • Occupy seats near exits in sessions.
  • Self-organise with other parents to manage children if there is a must see session or talk.
  • Be aware of the needs of other conference attendees, who have also paid to turn up and hear people speak.
  • Extend the principles of the conference Code of Conduct to children, both yours and others. Treat them respectfully, and avoid corporal punishment.
In kind, we request that everyone:
  • Be patient with children. They are our future leaders and learn by modelling what we do.
  • Be patient with parents. Children are not robots and don’t have ‘quiet now’ buttons.
  • Leave seats near exits free, for use by parents and children (see above - they may need to make quick exits)
  • Assist. If you see a child looking lost or distressed, get down to their level and ask them how you can help. Find a conference volunteer to hand over to.
Remember parents are doing the best they can. At the conference, if you have issues with children or parents, please contact the diversity team (as per the Code of Conduct).

If you feel that your child will not disrupt your presentation, you are welcome to bring them on stage (if they want to). Please organise this with your child ahead of time, so that you can arrange a carer or some other way of occupying your child while you speak.

For parents wanting tools to assist with helping their children get through a conference, there is a wealth of material that may be useful here:

What does it cost to bring children?

Children can attend for free. The catering cost is covered by the Good Mojo program. Please let us know as soon as you can if you are bringing your child(ren) so we can adjust numbers appropriately.

We all know that children can eat in amazing disproportion to their physical size, and we will cater for them as adults.

What facilities are available for parents?

The conference will aim to provide a ‘chill space’ - a refuge for parents and children at the venue. The University of Melbourne has fantastic outdoor spaces (please use them!); but Melbourne weather is not always friendly.

We are also looking into a specific space for breast pumping/feeding - however, breastfeeding mums are welcome to feed wherever they feel comfortable doing so (with respect also to the needs of your child).

While we will do our best to provide spaces away from the buzz, this is at present a work in progress - look out for updates!

Please use the foss4g-oceania-discuss e-mail list or join us on the Maptime Australia Slack to discuss with the FOSS4G organisers and coordinate with other conference parents. (Many of the organisers are also parents)


Special kudos goes to Adam Steer who has been the primary driver behind getting this initiative off the ground.

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