Smile - we are in safe hands

My daughter is 11. When I heard about Genevieve Bailey's film I was interested to see how she would capture this most tenuous of ages, one where they're balanced, sometimes precariously, on the isthmus between childhood and the teenage years. I look at my daughter and note how she swings between both - on days happy to play with her dolls or dance in front of her mirror with abandon, then on others scare me with how grown up she has become, with opinions she's happy to express and values and ideals all of her own.

Jamira, from Melbourne, is one of the children in <i>I Am Eleven</i>.
Jamira, from Melbourne, is one of the children in I Am Eleven

When I think back to my life at 11, it wasn't things such as climate change, racism, or even bullying. Life was happy and easy - backyard cricket matches and neighbourhood friends. The highlight of the year was the release of Star Wars and St George winning the rugby league grand final replay against Parramatta. Elvis died that year, and 83 people died in the the Granville train disaster - events noticed but not dwelled upon.

My daughter and her classmates were born in 2001, the year of the World Trade Centre disasters. I remember the night it happened, as the world watched the towers crumble and I cradled this four-month-old baby in my arms and wondered what sort of world we'd brought her into and whether she would live a life in a world forever changed.

In many ways she has but what has bought me the most hope, and this is evident right throughout Bailey's film as well, is that children will always be children no matter what their circumstance.

Whether they are living comfortably in the suburbs of Canberra, or in the orphanages of India, it's the times when they fold little boats out of pieces of paper and float them in puddles, or make pets out of rocks, or braid their friends' hair.

Filmmaker Genevieve Bailey.
Filmmaker Genevieve Bailey. Photo: Daniel Mahon

Despite all the bleakness and despair that this world sometimes throws, children have an uncanny knack of finding joy. Perhaps we can all be optimistic that our future belongs to them. They are wise beyond their years, with an intelligence, a clarity, a vision that generations before never had. I think we're in good hands. It scares me how wise she is. I long to meet the adult she will become.