Since the previous United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) report, there has been little progress in the protection of Australian children and young people. Many of the same key issues are faced by vulnerable young Australians, and government responses have fallen short. Jesuit Social Services assesses the state children’s rights in Australia in our Submission to the National Children’s Commissioner on Australia’s implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Despite Australia’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), young people are still subjected to inhumane treatment, both in criminal justice detention and in the offshore facilities accommodating children seeking asylum. Too many children are incarcerated in our criminal justice system, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are still overrepresented. The age of criminal responsibility has not been raised, and remains out of line with international standards. Young people in out of home care are left vulnerable when they are forced to leave state care at 18, without the necessary supports to transition successfully into young adulthood. On the whole, the young people most affected by these shortcomings in policy and practice are those already involved in a web of entrenched disadvantage.
In our Submission, we recommend:
- The use of isolation of children and young people in youth justice facilities be banned.
- That the Australian Government ceases the immigration detention of children in Australia.
- That restorative approaches such as group conferencing be expanded throughout criminal justice systems across Australia, based on the successful Victorian model.
- That the age of criminal responsibility is raised to 14 (as a minimum) across all states and territories.
- That targets are introduced as part of the Closing the Gap framework that seek to:
- reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in out-of-home care
- increase compliance in child protection placements of the Aboriginal Placement Principle
- That all Governments extend the age of young people leaving out-of-home care to 21 years, and invest in additional services to support this approach.
Our Submission offers feedback on a number of the key human rights ‘clusters’ that are relevant to our work, with a particular focus on the Northern Territory and Victoria, based on our grounded experience and advocacy in these two jurisdictions.