Child Rights Taskforce
UNICEF Australia and the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC) co-convenes the Child Rights Taskforce, Australia’s peak child rights body made up of almost 100 organisations, advocating for the protection of child rights in Australia. Speaking with a united voice, it is our job to lead the sector-wide approach to the UN on how we think the Australian Government is faring in its commitment to children.
The Child Rights Taskforce is made up of advocates, service providers, individuals and experts all focused on achieving child rights in Australia. It meets regularly to discuss upcoming opportunities and events to promote and protect child rights in Australia. One of the main roles of the Taskforce is to hold the Australian government to account on its commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
When Australia ratified the CRC in 1990, our government commitment to making sure that every child in Australia has every right in the convention. This is monitored by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, a panel of independent experts who the Australian Government reports to every five years.
The Australian Child Rights Taskforce is also given the opportunity to submit an independent report to ensure the UN is briefed on the whole story.
The Listen to Children Report
In 2011, the Child Rights Taskforce published the Listen to Children Report, compiled following consultations with over 750 children and young people and over 100 organisations and subject matters. It found that while Australia is a wonderful place for most of its children, certain children are disadvantaged by the failure of government policies.
Despite Australia’s ratification of the CRC in 1990, Australia has yet to effectively incorporate human rights into policy and legislative frameworks to benefit children and there are unacceptable gaps in the legal protection of children’s rights. Three groups of children are especially disadvantaged by the failure of governments:
· Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have child mortality rates of three times their non-aboriginal peers and are the least consulted in Australian policy; Aboriginal children aged 10–17 are 24 times more likely to be jailed than non-Aboriginal children and Aboriginal children are almost 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care.
· As at 31 May 2012, 516 children of asylum seekers remain in detention facilities in direct contravention to UN convention (At the time of publication, 1,048 children were in immigration detention)
· The numbers of children in out-of-home-care has increased by 51.5 per cent since 2005, yet Australia collects no data on the reasons why children are placed in care;
The Report also acknowledged that there has been some progress over the past five years. Positive developments include: commitment to the National Early Childhood Development Strategy, its implementation of a National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, the Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, and the commitment to Closing the Gap on Aboriginal health and education.
A total of 84 organisations and individuals endorsed the Report in whole or in part.
The Listen to Children report became the primary reference document to challenge the Australian government representatives when they came before the UN in June 2012.
Download the report LINK.
Australian Government questioned at UN Committee on Rights of Child
On 4-5 June 2012, the Australian Government came before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to respond to questions on its commitment to improving the fundamental rights and welfare of its children.
For the first time, the Child Rights Taskforce appointed a Youth Reporter to report back to the Australian public, particularly young people, on the review. Janani Muhunthan, 22, a Law Student from the University of Technology, Sydney, reported from Geneva using mainstream and social media.
The Government was questioned on a range of issues facing children in Australia, based on the findings of the Listen to Children Report and the briefing by the Child Rights Taskforce in October.
These questions covered the Australian government’s policies and treatment of children with disabilities, children in out-of-home-care, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and refugee and asylum seeker children; its approach to data collection and human rights education; and its efforts, or lack thereof, of bringing domestic law and practice into conformity with the principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
In its assessment of the Australian Government’s attention to its obligations to children, the UN Committee acknowledged some of the positive steps taken by the Government, yet lamented its failure to provide opportunities for its most vulnerable citizens.
The UN Committee welcomed the introduction of legislation for the establishment of a National Children’s Commissioner, 20 years overdue, yet found that the new role was set to be under-resourced, thereby jeopardising the effectiveness of the position before it commenced. It recommended increasing the resources for the National Children’s Commissioner and creating a Deputy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children
The UN Committee found that the Australian Government had contravened children’s rights with the Northern Territory Intervention and had generally failed to protect and promote the rights of Indigenous children. It was concerned by the punitive nature of the NT Intervention, including the student enrolment and attendance measure which allows for punitive reductions to welfare payments for parents whose children are truant. It was concerned at the serious and widespread discrimination faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, including in terms of provision of and accessibility to basic services and significant over-representation in the criminal justice system and in out-of-home care.
The UN Committee said that urgent measures were needed to address disparities in access to services by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families and urged the Government to ensure effective and meaningful participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons in the policy formulation, decision-making and implementation processes of programs affecting them.
It advised the Australian Government to thoroughly evaluate the Northern Territory Intervention, particularly its student enrolment and attendance measure, with a view to ensuring that the measures are proportionate, and non-discriminatory in form as well as effect.
Asylum-seeking and refugee children
The Committee drew attention to the high conflict of interest where the legal guardian of unaccompanied minors rests with the Minister of Immigration, who is also responsible for immigration detention and determinations of refugee and visa applications. It recommended that the Australian Government expeditiously establish an independent guardianship for unaccompanied immigrant children.
While acknowledging that efforts to move children and vulnerable families in immigration detention facilities to alternative forms of detention were being made, the Committee was deeply concerned about the mandatory detention of children who are asylum-seeking, refugees or in an irregular migration situation, without time limits and judicial review.
The Committee urged Australia to bring its immigration and asylum laws into full conformity with the Convention and other relevant international standards and reconsider its policy of detaining children who are asylum-seeking, refugees and/or irregular migrants.
Children in out-of-home care
The Committee expressed deep concern at the significant increase, of approximately 51% between 2005 and 2010, in the number of children placed in out-of-home care and noted that the Government had failed to provide adequate understanding of why there have been such alarming increases of numbers of children in care and satisfactory data mechanisms to accurately measure the full extent of this issue.
The Committee raised its concern at widespread reports of inadequacies and abuse occurring in the State party’s system of out-of-home care and recommended Australia take all necessary efforts to examine the root causes of the extent of child abuse and neglect as well as to provide general data on the reasons that children are being placed in care.
Australia's Review by the UN Committee starts today!
You can watch the review live from http://www.treatybodywebcast.org/ and keep updated through the following social media sites:
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UN will shine the spotlight on the wellbeing of children in Australia and review the Australian Government's commitment to children's rights.
The Australian Government’s review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is set to take place on 4-5 June and for the first time will be webcasted live by the NGO Group. Further information about the live video feed can be found on the NGO Group’s website, which will be current as of the beginning of the session: http://www.childrightsnet.org/NGOGroup/CRC/StatePartyReporting/
We encourage you to share the link with your community, networks and government, to raise awareness about the process and access the archived videos soon afterwards.
We will keep you updated on what happens on 4-5 June through twitter @ChildRightsAus and @JanChildRights
‘Listen to Children’ 2011 Child Rights NGO Report Updates
Thank you to all supporters of the Listen to Children, 2011 Child Rights NGO Report.
A total of 84 organisations and individuals endorsed the Report, in whole or in part. The Steering Committee greatly appreciates all of your valuable contributions, feedback, and support. The Steering Committee would also like to acknowledge the financial support provided by the Australian Federal Attorney-General's Department, the Sidney Myer Fund and the Humphries Family Fund.
The Report has been received and considered by the United Nations Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
About the Report
Despite the lack of efforts of successive Australian Federal Government to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC), Australia is a wonderful place for most of its children. However, Australia is not a wonderful place for all of its children, especially Indigenous children. In order to make Australia better for its children, we must learn to listen to them.
Despite Australia’s ratification of the CROC in 1991, Australia has yet to effectively incorporate human rights into policy and legislative framework to benefit children. There continues to be unacceptable gaps in the legal protection of children’s rights. Significant harm to the lives, survival and healthy development of far too many children has occurred over the 20 years since ratification:
- 1,048 children are currently being held in immigration detention;
- almost half of all homeless people in Australia are under the age of 18;
- Aboriginal children aged 10-17 are 24 times more likely to be jailed than non-Aboriginal children and Aboriginal children are 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care.
The Report also acknowledges that there has been some progress over the past five years. Positive developments include: commitment to the National Early Childhood Development Strategy, its implementation of a National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, the Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, and the commitment to Closing the Gap on Aboriginal health and education.
The Report is an overview of Australia’s performance as it relates to each article of CROC and recommends that the Australian Government implement the following core initiatives:
- CROC should be comprehensively incorporated into Australian law;
- a comprehensive National Plan of Action for Children and Young People should be created and implemented, in partnership with children and civil society; and
- an independent National Children’s Commissioner should be established.
Children share the same values as everyone else, and Australia must learn to listen to children’s opinions.
A full copy of the report can be downloaded here.
If you are having any problems with downloading the report, please email Ahram at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information contact:
Ms Ahram Choi, Child Rights Project Manager, at email@example.com