Hi, I’m Megan Mitchell, the National Children’s Commissioner.
My job is to protect the rights of all children and young people in Australia and make sure that adults do everything they can to help children and young people grow up healthy and strong.
I use a document called the Convention on the Rights of the Child to help me in my work. (You can find out more about the Convention here).
The Convention sets out all the things that children have the right to expect in order to live happy and healthy lives. This includes thing like being treated with dignity, being safe from abuse and exploitation, having a family to care for you, knowing your identify and culture, and having access healthcare and education.
What is the Children's Rights Report?
Every year, I write a report to the Australian Government about the state of children's rights in Australia. In my report I make recommendations about how I think we can better look after all children and young people.
As well as writing a report for the politicians, I also write one for children and young people! You can read short, easy-to-read summaries of my reports here.
- Children's Rights Report 2013
- Children's Rights Report 2014
- Children's Rights Report 2015
- Children's Rights Report 2016
- Children's Rights Report 2017
In 2013, in my first year as the National Children’s Commissioner, I went around Australia listening to children and young people.
I met over 1,000 children and young people. About 1,400 children and young people also filled in surveys and sent me postcards.
I asked them what was important to them and what would make life better. I heard stories from adults who work with children and young people too.
After I had listened to all the great things that children, young people and adults had to say, I came up with five main ideas.
These ideas are helping me do my work.
- The right to be heard
We need to make sure that adults listen to children and young people and take their views seriously.
- Freedom from violence, abuse and neglect
We need to make sure that all children and young people are safe.
- The opportunity to thrive
All children and young people need to grow up strong, healthy and happy. We need to help children and young people who are having a really hard time right from the start, instead of waiting until the problems get really bad.
- Engaged citizenship
We should help children and young people get involved in their schools and communities – to be citizens! They need to know about their rights!
- Action and accountability
We need to know all about how children and young people are doing in Australia. Then we need to make sure that the Australian Government makes laws and rules which help all children and young people.
Children can use their rights to tell someone if they don’t feel safe and to have a say about things that matter to them. People working with young children should listen to young children and help them to learn about their rights and to have all the things they need to do well.
I also spoke to children and young people about privacy. All children and young people have the right to privacy and in Australia there are rules about this.
Privacy rules can be broken when someone goes into your home without being asked, when you are being watched without you knowing, or when someone uses information without you agreeing.
After I spoke to children and young people about privacy rules, I shared what they said with adults working to make better privacy rules.
Children and young people have some very important human rights to help them be healthy and get help, like the right:
- to be alive
- to not be hurt or mistreated
- to special education and care if you have a disability
- to good health care, safe drinking water, healthy food, a clean and safe environment, and information to help you stay well
- to be looked after
- to food, clothing, and a safe place to live
- to protection from harmful drugs
- not to be punished in a cruel way
- to help if you’ve been hurt or
- badly treated
- to be respected and listened to.
For most children and young people, home is a place where they feel safe, protected and loved. However, some children and young people don’t feel safe in their own home.
Disagreeing about things is a regular part of family life. Sometimes your parents might have disagreements about money or who does chores around the house. You might argue with your mum or dad, or brother or sister, about a lot of different things.
But sometimes arguments in families go too far and people can get hurt.
Sometimes children and young people see members of their family, like one of their parents, getting hurt. Sometimes children and young people are the ones who are getting hurt.
Violence in families has a big effect on everyone, especially children and young people.
Children and young people who have to deal with violence at home can feel:
- anxious or depressed
There’s no excuse for family and domestic violence. It is never OK.
All children and young people have the right to be safe. I will be working with the Australian Government to help make sure that children and young people are safe and protected in their homes.
This year I paid special attention to the rights of children and young people who are locked up in youth justice centres. I went around Australia trying to find out how well governments are looking after children and young people when they are locked up.
When children and young people are locked up they lose one of their most important rights – the right to freedom. This is the only right that they lose. They should still have all their other rights.
I talked to 96 children and young people in detention about their rights and ways to make sure their rights were met while they were locked up. Talking to children and young people in youth justice centres showed me that more needs to be done to make sure they are safe and that their rights and needs are being met.