Children given an important national voice on human rights

The appointment of a National Children’s Commissioner will help to promote and protect the human rights of children and young people and ensure that the best interests of children are taken into account in the development of national law and policy. Welcoming the Attorney-General’s appointment of Megan Mitchell to the newly established position to sit within the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Law Centre’s Ben Schokman said that the position will assist to safeguard the rights of children and young people who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.

“There is a clear need for a stronger national voice advocating for the rights and interests of children who experience disadvantage or discrimination, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and children in immigration detention who face daily threats to their human rights,” said Mr Schokman.

With previous roles as the NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People and with the ACT Office for Children, Ms Mitchell brings a wealth of experience working with and advocating for children and young people.

“The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires that the best interests of children be considered paramount, that children are treated with dignity and respect, and that they be able to participate in decision-making processes. For the first time, Australia will now have an institutional mechanism at the national level to ensure that these international human rights obligations are implemented at home,” said Mr Schokman.

The creation of a national Children’s Commissioner has been consistently advocated by non-government organisations and was also a key recommendation of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child when it reviewed Australia and the UN Human Rights Council during Australia’s Universal Periodic Review in 2011.

“Comparable jurisdictions such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Norway all have full-time children’s rights commissioners. The experience from those jurisdictions shows that an adequately resourced and mandated commissioner can play a valuable role in advocating for the rights of children and young people, ensuring that their voices are heard by governments and decision makers,” said Mr Schokman.

The Human Rights Law Centre has strongly advocated for the establishment of the office of a National Children’s Commissioner. A copy of the Centre’s submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry which recommended the Commissioner’s establishment is available here.