Children's Rights Report for 2017 Released

Monday 12 March 2018 @ 8.19 a.m. | Judiciary, Legal Profession & Procedure | Legal Research

On 2 March 2018, the Federal Attorney General, Christian Porter, in the company of the National Children's Commissioner, Ms Megan Mitchell (the Commissioner), and the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, launched the 2017 Children's Rights Report, saying:

"The report provides an insightful account of the many dynamics which make up the picture of how children's rights are enjoyed in Australia today and focuses particularly on the challenges faced by young parents and their children."

According to the Attorney-General, the Children's Rights Report also outlines the development of the National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations, an initiative brought about by the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

To develop the report the Children's Commissioner spoke directly with young or expecting parents across the country, and consulted broadly with academics, Government, private and non-governmental organisations, and many children and youths themselves.

The Attorney-General indicated that he believed the report would contribute to improving the lives of children and young people across Australia.  In conjunction with the release of the Report, he also announced the reappointment of Ms Mitchell as National Children's Commissioner for a further two years.

Overview of the Report

In Chapter 1, the report looks at the work done promoting and discussing children’s rights and the awareness of them. It also discusses the progress in relation to recommendations made in previous Children’s Rights Reports. Children’s rights in Commonwealth legislation and court proceedings are considered in Chapter 2 of the report, particularly with respect to the consideration of children’s rights in the development of Commonwealth legislation and related policies.

Young parents and their children are considered in Chapter 3 where the findings of the project on the rights of young parents and their children are detailed. According to the report:

". . . Young parents and their children are particularly vulnerable to breaches of their rights to health, education and care, and great risk of long-term disadvantage and welfare dependency".

The chapter identifies gaps in knowledge regarding the experiences and trajectories of young parents, and analyses good practice in early intervention and support services that lead to better outcomes for young parents and their children and makes a number of recommendations for improvement. 

In Chapter 4, child safety and wellbeing is considered, and there is an outline of contemporary understanding of child harm and abuse in Australia, with a particular focus on children and young people in organisational settings. It highlights data on child harm and abuse, noting trends and gaps in available information. The chapter also refers to findings of recent government inquiries that "emphasise the importance of valuing and empowering children and listening to what they say". The chapter also describes the work the Commissioner is leading to "embed child safe cultures and child rights knowledge throughout organisations that work for and with children across Australia'.

Some Key Recommendations

The report makes 17 recommendations.  Some of the key ones are as follows:

  • Sentencing Young Parents: State and territory governments should explore the use of alternative sentencing options, such as home detention, for offenders who are young parents. Where a young parent who is a primary carer is given a custodial sentence, programs which allow them to remain with their children should be made available, when this is in the best interests of the child [Recommendation 3].
  • Young Parents who are also studying: State and territory education departments should systematically collect data on the numbers of young pregnant and parenting young people who are enrolled students [Recommendation 9].
  • Review of Laws, Policies and Practices for Contraception and Abortion: The Australian Government, through the Council of Australian Governments’ Health Council, should work with states and territories to review laws, policies and practices, so that all children and young people who are determined to be Gillick competent have access to prescribed medical forms of contraception and abortion[Recommendation 11].
  • Review of Laws, Policies and Practices: The Australian Government, through the Council of Australian Governments’ Education Council, should work with states and territories to review their laws, policies and practices to ensure that:

 (a) access to education for all children is guaranteed

 (b) educational authorities and educational institutions – both public and private – are required to make all necessary adjustments and provide all necessary support to facilitate and ensure access to education for children and young people who are pregnant or are parents

 (c) regular publication of information on adjustments made to support children and young people who are pregnant or are parents is required

 (d) suspension, expulsion or denial of education of a child or young person on the ground of their being pregnant or a parent is prohibited.
[Recommendation 12]

The complete report is available at the Australian Human Rights Commission website, click here

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