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Conceptualising “the more-than-migrant child”

Sonja Arndt (Faculty of Education, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia)
Kylie Smith (Faculty of Education, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia)
Nicola Yelland (Faculty of Education, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 28 May 2024




Using a feminist, post-structural and posthuman theoretical framing the paper argues for elevating the complexity of conceptions of migrant children’s engagements with and contributions to their own lives.


This conceptual paper responds to contemporary concerns with research involving migrant children and childhoods in an Australian context. With researchers and teachers’ attention being drawn to enhancing the cultural wellbeing, identity and belonging of young children, it asks: who is “the migrant child”? In our response to this question, we disrupt expectations of simplistic, homogeneous views of children of migrant families or backgrounds, including confronting notions such as vulnerability, neediness and deficit.


Potential ways in which “the migrant child” is implicated by diverse social, environmental and political factors underlie the many ways in which children might exercise their autonomy and participation. In Australia, contemporary migration remains clouded by such policies as the only relatively recently overturned “White Australia” policy and so-called “boat turnbacks”, whilst, and especially in post-Covid times, Australian society simultaneously depends on migrant workers in many areas of employment. At the same time, Australia seems to openly celebrate what is seen as “successful” multiculturalism.


These multiple perspectives offer a deeply concerning social and policy environment for researchers and educationalists. It is in this context that we raise questions and speculate towards potential conceptualisations of “the migrant child” which recognise, rather than negate, the powers and insights arising from the child’s experiential, relational and deeply entangled onto-epistemological perspective/s.



Arndt, S., Smith, K. and Yelland, N. (2024), "Conceptualising “the more-than-migrant child”", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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