The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has handed down a damning report on Australia following its periodic review which took place on 4 and 5 June. The Committee’s “Concluding Observations” are a comprehensive set of recommendations to Australia on steps it should take to ensure better compliance with its international legal obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Committee’s report card on children’s rights in Australia indicates that despite some positive developments over the last few years, such as the recent move to establish a National Children’s Commissioner, the situation for many children in Australia continues to be a serious concern and one of international significance. The Committee expressed particular frustration at the ongoing failure of Australia to implement key general measures of the CRC, including:
- the absence of comprehensive legislation enshrining children’s rights in Australia’s domestic law;
- the lack of adequate coordination between government departments and federal and state governments; and
- the absence of a National Plan of Action to implement the CRC in Australia.
The Committee also raised concerns in relation to the allocation of adequate resources, data collection, international aid and the human rights obligations of the business sector.
In additional to these important institutional issues, the Committee also expressed concern about a diverse range of issues affecting children in Australia, such as:
- violence against women and children;
- children in out-of-home care;
- abuse and neglect;
- access to health services;
- children and young people who are homeless;
- early childhood care and education; and
- asylum-seeking and refugee children.
In addition, the Committee highlighted particular concern about continued serious and widespread discrimination against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. In addition to a large number of specific issues facing these communities, the Committee made a number of recommendations focusing on the importance of meaningful participation, empowering children and supporting community based programs to advance the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
A copy of the Committee’s Concluding Observations is available here.
A coalition of NGOs submitted a comprehensive report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in May 2011. A copy of the NGO Report, Listen to children, is available at http://www.childrights.org.au/, together with NGO materials including fact sheets and information about the CRC.