As Australians, our home is known as the 'lucky country'. We learnt recently that five of
But not everyone in the world is so lucky.
Imagine living somewhere where one in five people seeking assistance from homelessness services is aged under ten. Or somewhere where young people from an ethnic minority are 28 times more likely to be imprisoned than the white majority. Or a country where there’s been a 51% increase in five years in the number of children taken from their parents by the state.
These confronting statistics point to a society that is failing its children and young people.
These statistics show that there are parts of the world where children’s rights aren’t being protected by their government and their community.
Sadly, these statistics are not from some far-flung, backward part of the world.
These damning statistics are from
The shocking overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system has steadily increased over the last 20 years. Today Indigenous youth are 28 times more likely of being imprisoned than non-Indigenous youth, an increase since 1993 when the ratio was 17.
The data on children in out-of-home care tells a similar story. From 2005 to 2010 there was a 51 per cent increase in the number of children placed in the out-of-home care system. Similarly, statistics show that one in five people seeking support from specialist homelessness services are aged under 10.
There are many other areas where systems and structures are failing vulnerable young Australians. We have too many children and young people that are unable to access a safe home, appropriate health care and supports, and other basic rights that we expect all Australians should be afforded.
These numbers show that
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 review found that we were particularly failing indigenous Australians, asylum-seeking and refugee children, children in out-of-home care and children with disabilities.
The Committee also brought attention to the government’s 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.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The Government’s recent announcement to establish a National Children’s Commission is a positive step. The Government is currently recruiting a Commissioner, who will take a broad advocacy role to promote public awareness of issues affecting children, conduct research and education programs, consult directly with children and representative organisations as well as monitor Commonwealth legislation, policies and programs that relate to children’s rights, wellbeing and development.
Other positive developments recognised by the Committee include the Government’s 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.
We should be proud of our society – for most of us,
Deakin law lecturer James Farrell and Chris Varney, former Youth Representative to the UN, spoke at a Children’s Rights forum at
This article first appeared in the Geelong Advertiser on 22 August 2012.