General Questions

The Australian Child Rights Taskforce is the peak body for child rights in Australia. Made up of more than 100 organisations advocating for the promotion and fulfilment of the rights of Australia’s children, our goal is to ensure child rights remains squarely on the agenda of the Australian government and people.

As the peak body for child rights, our role is to ensure the Australian Government is held to account on its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The Australian Government ratified the CRC in 1990. It has to report periodically to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on how it is implementing the CRC.

The CRC is the only international human rights treaty that expressly gives non-governmental organisations a role in monitoring its implementation. As such, it is the role of the Australian Child Rights Taskforce to produce the alternative report.

Our membership is made up of advocates, service providers, individuals and experts who work to promote and realise the rights of Australian children. The Child Rights Taskforce is co-convened by UNICEF Australia and The National Children’s and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC) and is led by a Steering Committee of child rights organisations and experts.

View our full membership here.

Membership is open to advocates, service providers, individuals and experts who are working to help children realise their rights in Australia.

You can express your interest in becoming a member by filling in the form here.

Australia’s National Children’s Commissioner is Megan Mitchell and it’s her job to make sure children and young people have a genuine say on the issues that affect their lives. You can contact the National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, at: kids@humanrights.gov.au @MeganM4Kids www.facebook.com/MeganM4Kids

If you need some help or advice, there are a number of services available specifically for kids in Australia. We’ve compiled this list of organisations who are supporting children experiencing depression, anxiety and bullying, abuse, racial discrimination, and for children of asylum seekers and refugees.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty that recognises the human rights of children, defined as persons up to the age of 18 years. The Convention establishes in international law that States Parties must ensure that all children—without discrimination in any form—benefit from special protection measures and assistance; have access to services such as education and health care; can develop their personalities, abilities and talents to the fullest potential; grow up in an environment of happiness, love and understanding; and are informed about and participate in, achieving their rights in an accessible and active manner.

The CRC was drafted by a working group which met every three years, for more than a decade, to debate the rights to be conferred on children by the Convention. All countries represented at the United Nations were entitled to participate in the working group sessions. Australia was an energetic contributor to these debates, with former Chief Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner, Brian Burdekin, playing an active part. Where delegates could not agree on the wording of a particular Article, smaller groups were established to try to come to an agreed wording. Australia chaired some of these smaller working groups. If consensus on controversial issues proved impossible, a vote was taken. The final session of the working group was marked by exchanges between delegates pressing a particular point of view. The issues of inter-country adoption and the age at which children might serve in the military forces provoked debate.

The standards in the Convention on the Rights of the Child were negotiated by governments, non-governmental organisations, human rights advocates, lawyers, health specialists, social workers, educators, child development experts and religious leaders from all over the world, over a 10-year period. The result is a consensus document that takes into account the importance of tradition and cultural values for the protection and harmonious development of the child. It reflects the principal legal systems of the world and acknowledges the specific needs of developing countries.

It constitutes a common reference against which progress in meeting human rights standards for children can be assessed and results compared. Having agreed to meet the standards in the Convention, governments are obliged to bring their legislation, policy and practice into accordance with the standards in the Convention; to transform the standards into reality for all children; and to abstain from any action that may preclude the enjoyment of those rights or violate them. Governments are required to report periodically to a committee of independent experts on their progress to achieve all the rights.

As an international treaty, the CRC creates international legal obligations on states who have either signed or ratified the treaty. How the CRC is then treated by national legal systems is dependent on both the type of legal system a country has and whether the country has ratified the treaty or just signed it.

Every country that has ratified the Convention must report periodically to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, an internationally elected body of independent experts that sits in Geneva to monitor the Convention’s implementation. The CRC is  the only international human rights treaty that expressly gives non-governmental organisations a role in monitoring its implementation (under article 45a). Where necessary, the Committee calls for international assistance from other governments and technical assistance from organisations like UNICEF.

The Convention provides a universal set of standards to be adhered to by all countries. It reflects a new vision of the child. Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and a member of a family and a community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. Recognizing children’s rights in this way firmly sets a focus on the whole child. Previously seen as negotiable, the child’s needs have become legally binding rights. No longer the passive recipient of benefits, the child has become the subject or holder of rights.

The Convention:

  • Is in force in virtually the entire community of nations, thus providing a common ethical and legal framework to develop an agenda for children. At the same time, it constitutes a common reference against which progress may be assessed.
  • Was the first time a formal commitment was made to ensure the realization of human rights and monitor progress on the situation of children.
  • Indicates that children’s rights are human rights. Children’s rights are not special rights, but rather the fundamental rights inherent to the human dignity of all people, including children. Children’s rights can no longer be perceived as an option, as a question of favour or kindness to children or as an expression of charity. They generate obligations and responsibilities that we all must honour and respect.
  • Was even accepted by non-state entities. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), a rebel movement in Southern Sudan, is one such example.
  • Is a reference for many organizations working with and for children—including NGOs and organizations within the UN system.
  • Reaffirms that all rights are important and essential for the full development of the child and that addressing each and every child is important.
  • Reaffirms the notion of State accountability for the realization of human rights and the values of transparency and public scrutiny that are associated with it.
  • Promotes an international system of solidarity designed to achieve the realization of children’s rights. Using the Convention’s reporting process as a reference, donor countries are required to provide assistance in areas where particular needs have been identified; recipient countries are required to direct overseas development assistance (ODA) to that end too.
  • Highlights and defends the family’s role in children’s lives.

Like most legal instruments, the Convention is a living instrument, this means that over time, it may change to adapt to new realities in the lives of children (e.g. impact of technology), new violations that may occur, or to clarify what is meant by certain articles or provisions. We see it as part of our role to monitor where such developments occur, raise awareness, push the debate and affect change in these sometimes controversial areas.

A ‘Child’ is defined in Article 1 of CRC as ‘every human being below the age of 18 years’. For Convention purposes, a person ceases to be a child on his or her 18th birthday. There was considerable debate, during development, as to whether the rights (including the right to life in Article 16) should apply to the unborn child. The Preamble refers to the need for protection for the child ‘before and after birth’, but Article 1 gives no guidance whether an unborn child falls within the definition of a ‘human being’.

The CRC has been ratified by 195 countries making it the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. In January 2015, Somalia became the most recent country to invest in the wellbeing of its children by ratifying the CRC. Only two countries have yet to ratify the landmark treaty – South Sudan and the United States

 

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. Only two countries have yet to ratify the landmark treaty – South Sudan and the United States.

By signing the Convention, the United States has signalled its intention to ratify—but has yet to do so. As in many other nations, the United States undertakes an extensive examination and scrutiny of treaties before proceeding to ratify. This examination, which includes an evaluation of the degree of compliance with existing law and practice in the country at state and federal levels, can take several years—or even longer if the treaty is portrayed as being controversial or if the process is politicized. Moreover, the US Government typically will consider only one human rights treaty at a time. Currently, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is cited as the nation’s top priority among human rights treaties. In January 2015, Somalia became the most recent country to invest in the wellbeing of its children by ratifying the CRC.

Through its reviews of country reports, the Committee urges all levels of government to use the Convention as a guide in policy-making and implementation to:

  • Develop a comprehensive national agenda for children.
  • Develop permanent bodies or mechanisms to promote coordination, monitoring and evaluation of activities throughout all sectors of government.
  • Ensure that all legislation is fully compatible with the Convention.
  • Make children visible in policy development processes throughout government by introducing child impact assessments.
  • Carry out adequate budget analysis to determine the portion of public funds spent on children and to ensure that these resources are being used effectively.
  • Ensure that sufficient data are collected and used to improve the plight of all children in each jurisdiction.
  • Raise awareness and disseminate information on the Convention by providing training to all those involved in government policy-making and working with or for children.
  • Involve civil society—including children themselves—in the process of implementing and raising awareness of child rights.
  • Set up independent statutory offices—ombudspersons, commissions and other institutions—to promote children’s rights.

The Convention has inspired a process of national implementation and social change in all regions of the world, including:

  • Incorporating human rights principles into legislation;
  • Establishing interdepartmental and multidisciplinary bodies.
  • Developing national agendas for children;
  • Widening partnerships for children;
  • Promoting ombudspersons for children or commissioners for children’s rights.
  • Assessing the impact of measures on children;
  • Restructuring of budgetary allocations;
  • Targeting child survival and development;
  • Implementing the principle of non-discrimination;
  • Listening to children’s voices; and
  • Developing justice systems for children.

These examples are merely a sampling and are not exhaustive. For more information and further country-specific examples, see the ‘National Implementation’ fact sheet within Resources.