Summary of the key findings and recommendations
In 2016 the National Children’s Commissioner looked into the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in the context of children and young people detained in youth justice centres or adult facilities.
These documents provide a summary of the key findings and recommendations from this work. Chapters 3 and 4 of the Children’s Rights Report 2016 contain the full results.
Every year, the National Children's Commissioner provides a child-friendly version of her Children’s Rights Report. The child-friendly report is a short, easy-to-read summary of the contents of the National Children's Commissioner's report to Parliament.
Submissions and Government Responses
The National Children’s Commissioner received information from Government Departments responsible for youth justice in Australia and other non-government organisations with particular expertise in the OPCAT or youth justice.
I am pleased to present my fourth annual Children’s Rights Report as the National Children’s Commissioner. This report details how I have fulfilled my statutory functions, outlined in Section 46MB of the Australia Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) (the Act) during the 2015-16 period.
During the course of my term, I have continued to monitor Australia’s progress meeting our responsibilities to children and young people under international law. My work and advocacy is inspired and guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This articulates all the basic conditions children and young people require to thrive and flourish.
This report sets out significant advances in understanding and implementing the necessary prerequisites for ensuring children’s rights are respected and upheld. I also outline areas where more needs to be done, and refer to the major strands of advocacy and research activity I have undertaken throughout the year.
Following on from my major examination last year, I have continued to advocate for a national focus on the distinct impacts of family and domestic violence on children. I am pleased to note that this report outlines positive progress on this front. The challenge is to keep this momentum going.
The primary focus for this year’s report is an investigation into the oversight of youth justice detention in Australia. This was a particularly timely initiative given the shocking allegations of the abuse of children and young people in detention in the Northern Territory and Queensland that emerged earlier in the year.
As children’s rights are increasingly recognised in legislation, programs and practice, working with, rather than for, children and young people becomes a normal part of doing business. This is particularly evident in the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children (2009-2020) where ongoing consultation with children and young people has now been embedded in its development, implementation and evaluation.
In my role, I come across many people in the community, in government and in the non-government sector who are committed to championing the rights and welfare of children and young people and supporting the work that I do. This makes me extremely optimistic for the future of Australia’s children and young people, and our ability to fulfil the promises we have made to them in the CRC.
But most of all, my optimism comes from engaging with children and young people themselves. As I travel across this big country of ours, children and young people continue to impress me with their insights, energy and enthusiasm to be involved in their communities.
The children and young people I have met who understand their rights are empowered and safeguarded by this knowledge, and develop a strong sense of respect for the rights of others.
This goes as much for children and young people living on the coast or in heart of the desert, for children and young people in detention and for those in out of home care, for children and young people who have just arrived on our shores, and for those whose families have been here for many generations. They all count, they all have a contribution to make, and they all have rights.
Finally, I must acknowledge the hard and tireless work of the staff of the Australian Human Rights Commission who have supported me in all the activities undertaken over the year, and who were instrumental in delivering this report.
Chapter 1: Advocacy for Children’s Rights in Australia
Chapter 1 examines the work I have undertaken throughout the past year to promote discussion and awareness of matters relating to the human rights of children and young people in Australia. This work is reported against the five themes which emerged from my consultations with children and young people when I started my term in 2013. It also discusses the encouraging progress made in relation to recommendations made in my previous Children’s Rights Reports.
Chapter 2: Child Rights in legislation and court proceedings
Chapter 2 reports on the consideration of child rights in the development or refinement of federal laws and related policies. In particular, I review the comments and analyses of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights on how the children’s rights were taken into account in Statements of Compatibility with Human Rights, which accompany Bills introduced to Parliament in the reporting period. I also include a summary of the position of the Australian Human Rights Commission set out in submissions made in relation to these Bills.
Chapter 3: Oversight of youth justice in Australia: Implementing OPCAT
The focus of this chapter is to take stock of the readiness of youth justice processes for the implementation of the OPCAT. This includes a review of current oversight, complaints and reporting arrangements across the jurisdictions, an analysis of their adequacy in meeting the OPCAT requirements, and identification of opportunities for improvements nationally over time. Information gathered for this examination was derived from: formal requests to relevant state and territory departments; a series of expert roundtables; submissions from non-government bodies and oversight agencies; and consultations with young detainees in each jurisdiction.
Chapter 4: The voices and experiences of children and young people in the justice system
Chapter 4 outlines the findings of workshops and surveys of children and young people residing in detention facilities visited as part of this year’s work. Children and young people were asked about: their knowledge of monitoring and oversight mechanisms, people and processes; their understanding of their rights in detention; and their views about their treatment and the conditions in which they were living.
If you are feeling distressed, are worried about someone, or would like someone to talk to, please contact:
- Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or www.kidshelp.com.au
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org
- 1800 RESPECT on 1800 732 732 or www.1800respect.org.au
- MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78 or www.mensline.org.au
- Police and ambulance services on 000
For information on the work of the National Children’s Commissioner, please visit: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/childrens-rights.