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The Child Nation Story

Child Nation’s founder Jessica Wilson is an internationally recognised artist working in participative art with children. In 2020 she was forced to take a participative recording project on-line. Instead of the usual group format she worked with individual children on the phone whilst they wandered their own gardens or local park. This is not a normal way of working with children in the arts. Jessica was bowled over by how creative the child participants were as they made up voices and characters for trees, rubbish bins, footpaths and the sky. She had never experienced that level of free-flowing ideas and animation amongst children in workshop contexts.

Jessica hypothesised that the solo nature of the experience - away from the gaze of any other adults or peers - gave the children more permission to imagine. She decided to test this idea by removing even her adult self from the process, and began messing with no-code form builders. And Child Nation was born!

Uptake was instant, as performing arts programmers sought to provide innovative notions of digital programming to children in lockdown and seasons of Child Nation’s at-home adventures were programmed in Australia, USA and Canada. Arts centres also used the platform as a means to enable international collaboration without travel, and new locally relevant content was developed this way for children in Singapore through The Artground and in Korea through Palbok Arts Centre. Jessica also worked with translators in Mexico and China to localise all of the content.

Child Nation continues to grow and develop with participation in the State Library Victoria’s Alchemy program, funding from The Australia Council, support from City of Melbourne’s Artplay, testing with 200 children in schools within the City of Brimbank, and Melbourne University’s prestigious paid accelerator program, MAP. There are now nearly 30 different adventures written by seven different artists and translated into six languages.

Child Nation bring the values and spirit of participative place making works to a far greater number and more diverse pool of children. It helps children to imaginatively claim connection and ownership of the places they inhabit and see the world beyond adult constructs.

Founder and Lead Artist

Jessica Wilson

Child Nation emerges from Jessica's ground breaking artistic research into the adult / child relationship, the secret love of imaginative play amongst 7 - 11 year olds, and the power of connecting imaginatively with place.

Jessica has conceived and realised 100’s of ambitious projects and fundraised more than $5.5 million across her career in partnership with high profile presenting partners around the world.

Three of her projects informed the conceptual development of Child Nation;

  • I SEE YOU LIKE THIS where children are asked what they like and don’t like about a parent before using that adult’s face as the canvas for a bizarre photo portrait. The project has experienced immense success and high profile exhibitions emerging from tours of Australia and Europe and was the only Australian showcase at the International Performing Arts for Young People forum in USA in 2020.

  • THE WAYFINDERS, which uses beacon technology to make trees, rocks and the sky talk into the headphones of passing pre-school-aged children with the content created by older children.

  • THE NARRATOR, a theatre experience that takes place on board a bus and re-frames the passing world of a city as places that are part of a story about childhood. The Narrator was created in Latvia and played at Adelaide's DREAMBIG in 2021 as a feature of the Australian Performing Arts Market.


​VISUAL DESIGN Vanessa Fernandez



  • Jessica Wilson

  • Sally Lewry

  • Micaela Gramajo (Mexico)

  • Jadah Pleither Nee Milroy (Palyku Australia)

  • Dan Newell

  • Soumee De Girotra (Singapore)

  • Nathan Maynard

with SINCERE thanks to …

  • SOPHIE TRAVERS for ongoing strategic and development advice.

  • MATT TRAVERS for early product development guidance.

  • Translators DINA KER (Arabic), FELIX CHING CHING HO (Mandarin), EVELYN RIDGEWAY (Vietnamese), MICHAELA GRAMAJO (Spanish).

  • MARCIA FERGUSON for her dramaturgical input to the Special Delivery games which formed the basis of Child Nation. TANYA DICKSON for seeing the potential in home experiences for kids.

  • JO SHEILLS for her copywriting eye in early incarnations.

  • STEVE BERRICK & TOM BUFFARDECCI for tech support.

  • CATHRYN NOLAN, DEBBY MAZIARZ & PETER TULLIN for business development guidance.

  • LUCAS MICHAILIDIS for the lounge-room based idea generation that formed the basis of multiple journeys.

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