20 December 2013

Children’s Rights

The National Children's Commissioner has released the Children’s Rights Report 2013 under section 46MB of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth), which requires that the Commissioner submit an annual report relating to 'the enjoyment and exercise of human rights by children in Australia'. The Act authorises the Commissioner to make recommendations as to any action that should be taken to ensure the enjoyment and exercise of human rights by children.

The Commissioner indicates that the report -
examines the key international human rights treaty on children’s rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and its implementation in Australia. Current statistics are used in the report to show how children are faring in Australia. The Report also refers to the outcomes of my national listening tour, the Big Banter, which concluded on 30 September 2013.
Based on this, the Report outlines five key themes that I have identified for progressing better protection of children’s rights in Australia. The Report includes six recommendations on actions that should be taken to ensure the enjoyment and exercise of human rights by children in Australia. 
The themes are -
1. A right to be heard – children’s voice and participation in decision-making processes; specifically involving children in issues that affect them; and ensuring that existing mechanisms for resolving disputes are accessible and available to children.
2. Freedom from violence, abuse and neglect – ensuring safe environments and respect for the dignity of the child; specifically making sure that the commitments made in national frameworks are achieved and built upon, through adequate resourcing and action; encouraging a proactive approach to issues of child safety that places a premium on prevention, through enabling safe communities and environments for children; and building resilience among our children.
3. The opportunity to thrive – safeguarding the health and wellbeing of all children in Australia, which includes promoting and supporting children through early intervention and prevention; and identifying and focusing on the most marginalised and vulnerable children.
4. Engaged citizenship – promoting engaged civics and citizenship through education and awareness-raising.
5. Action and accountability – taking deliberate and proactive steps to protect the wellbeing and rights of children, specifically by collecting comprehensive national data about the wellbeing and human rights of Australia’s children; progressing a national vision for Australia’s children through intergovernmental partnerships and agreements; developing outcome based reporting and monitoring of government service delivery and policy development; and developing a children’s impact assessment process for law, policy practice. 
The recommendations are -
R1 That the Australian Government respond formally to the Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on Australia’s fourth report of progress under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols. The response should indicate how it intends to progress addressing the recommendations, and timelines and benchmarks for their implementation.
R2 That the Australian Government accedes to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure and ratifies the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
R3 That the Australian Government finalises its review of Australia’s reservations and withdraws its reservation under article 37(c) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which relates to the obligation to separate children from adults in prison.
R4 That the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) extends its current cohort of Australian children in A picture of Australia’s children from 0 to 14 years to 0 to 17 years, consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child definition of the child.
R5 That the Australian Government establishes relevant data holdings and analytics covering all the key domains of children’s rights outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including comparable data across jurisdictions, which the National Children’s Commissioner can use to monitor the enjoyment and exercise of human rights by children in Australia.
R6 That the Australian Government includes in its regular monitoring and evaluation of national policy reforms and initiatives, a component that reports on how it is giving effect to the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.