The establishment 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 announcement that the Government will appoint a Children’s Commissioner to sit within the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Law Centre said that the position will assist to safeguard the rights of children and young people who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.
“The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires that the best interests of children be considered paramount, that they 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 to ensure that these international human rights obligations are implemented at home,” said Ben Schokman of the Human Rights Law Centre.
Mr Schokman said that 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 last reviewed Australia in 2005. Australia is due to appear before the Committee again next month. The UN Human Rights Council also recommended that Australia appoint a national Children’s Commissioner when it reviewed Australia’s human rights record in 2011.
“Comparable jurisdictions such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Norway all have full-time children’s rights commissioners,” said Mr Schokman. “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.”
“In an Australian context, the Government’s recent appointment of full-time race and age discrimination commissioners has helped advance the human rights of those groups and put their issues on the policy agenda,” said Mr Schokman. “A full-time Children’s Commissioner could play a similar role in advocating for the rights and interests of children who experience disadvantage or discrimination, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children who are homeless and children with disability.”
Ben Schokman, Director of International Human Rights and Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre – 0403 622 810 or firstname.lastname@example.org