.

  • Written by Faith Gordon, Lecturer in Criminology, Monash University
The UN said it was 'seriously concerned' about the rise in mental health problems among children in Australia, including those from refugee and asylum-seeking families. Erik Anderson/AAP

Last month, Australia appeared before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva for a five-year assessment of the government’s progress in protecting the rights of children. The hearing included submissions from the Australian government, the Australian Human Rights Commission and civil society organisations on everything from youth justice issues to children’s health and well-being.

Among those who spoke at the hearing was 12-year-old Dujuan Hoosan from Arrernte and Garrwa country in central Australia, who called on the Australian government to stop imprisoning 10-year-olds, support Aboriginal-led education programs, and respect the culture and rights of all children in Australia.

I came here to speak with you because the Australian government is not listening. Adults never listen to kids like me. But we have important things to say.

He is believed to be the youngest person ever to address the UN Human Rights Council.

On Friday, the UN committee handed down its report – and it paints a gloomy picture.


Read more: Australia must do better at protecting children's rights


The committee was extremely critical of the Australian government on a range of issues. These included the high numbers of children in care and the criminal justice system, the continued forced sterilisation of children with disabilities, the government’s treatment of refugee and asylum-seeking children, and the lack of meaningful opportunities for children to participate in decision-making on policies that affect their lives.

Many of the recommendations go to the heart of the ingrained political, cultural and legal inferiority of children in Australia.

Children and the criminal justice system

The Australian government played a major role in the drafting and passage of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child nearly 30 years ago and was among its first signatories. The convention is one of the most ratified human rights treaties in history. It plays an important role in defining and upholding the rights of children.

Despite this, Australia still does not have a national strategy to ensure the implementation of appropriate protections of children’s rights.

The youth justice system in Australia, for example, has been described for some time as being in crisis.

In 2017, the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory shone a light onto some of the most serious violations in Australia’s youth justice system. It found that over the past decade, children in the NT were frequently mistreated, abused, humiliated and left alone for long periods. The local government has done little to address the issues since then.


Read more: One year on from Royal Commission findings on Northern Territory child detention: what has changed?


Queensland’s youth justice system is now under scrutiny, after media reports earlier this year found that children as young as 10 were being housed in adult watch houses.

Nationally, media reports and official statistics show the rising numbers of children being remanded in prison rather than being granted bail. This is contrary to international guidelines, which say that prison should only be used as a “last resort”.

The UN committee report made a number of major recommendations on criminal justice issues, including urging the Australian government

  • to immediately raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to an internationally acceptable age of 14

  • to immediately implement the 2018 recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission to reduce the high rates of Indigenous children who are imprisoned

  • to prohibit the use of isolation and force against children in detention, including the use of restraints, and immediately investigate all cases of abuse and mistreatment of children in detention

  • to urge the Northern Territory and Western Australia to review and repeal mandatory minimum sentences for children.

Some of these recommendations were tabled over a year ago by the royal commission, but no major steps have been taken since.

The committee also urged Australia to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings, including homes, schools, detention centres and alternative care. It also called for laws in states and territories that permit “reasonable chastisement” to be repealed.

These laws currently allow adults to physically discipline children as long as it is “reasonable” in the circumstances. As campaigners against the practice rightly argue, “reasonable” is a vague term and open to interpretation. The UN committee wants it banned, as has recently taken place in Scotland.

Mental health and suicide

The committee also said it was “seriously concerned” that the number of Australian children with mental health problems was on the rise. This is particularly so for children in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities or alternative care, those who are homeless, living in rural and remote areas or asylum-seekers, those from culturally diverse backgrounds and LGBTI children.

The report noted that

almost one in seven children were assessed with mental health problems, with suicide being the leading cause of death for those aged 15-24.


Read more: How we can help refugee kids to thrive in Australia


Among its recommendations to the government were

  • prioritising mental health service delivery to children in vulnerable situations, such as those groups listed above

  • strengthening measures to ensure the side effects of certain drugs for ADHD are fully communicated to parents/guardians and children and that they are prescribed “as a measure of last resort”

  • continuing to provide children with education on sexual and reproductive health as part of the mandatory school curriculum.

Political attitudes toward children

Finally, the committee also addressed the ways in which Australian politicians responded to children who took part in recent climate strikes.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison brushed off children’s demands for climate action, while others made patronising comments about them being better off in the classroom than on the streets protesting.

The committee emphasised that the effects of climate change have an undeniable impact on children’s rights and expressed “its concern and disappointment” that the children’s climate change protests

received a strongly worded negative response from those in authority, which demonstrates disrespect for their right to express their views on this important issue.

Time for change

None of these changes will happen without political will. Civil society, human rights groups and state children’s commissioners have crucial roles to play in continuing to advocate on behalf of children and speak up when they are being mistreated and their rights are being infringed.

The committee’s report card is not a badge of honour, and it puts Australia on a list of countries that have the necessary resources to support their next generation, but are failing to do so.

Noam Peleg led, together with the Diplomacy Training Programme and UNSW Law, a Children’s Rights Monitoring Capacity Building Programme since 2017.

Faith Gordon does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Faith Gordon, Lecturer in Criminology, Monash University

Read more http://theconversation.com/the-australian-government-is-not-listening-how-our-country-is-failing-to-protect-its-children-124779

Is your horse normal? Now there’s an app for that

Vet: are you happy? Horse: neigh. evilgurl/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SASince ancient times, horse behaviour, and the bond between horses and humans, has been a source of intrigue and fascination. The horse-l...

Paul McGreevy, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare Science, University of Sydney - avatar Paul McGreevy, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare Science, University of Sydney

Small histories: a road trip reveals local museums stuck in a rut

Berry, and other tourist towns, are out of step with modern museum curation which is trying to include Aboriginal communities and their stories. ShutterstockAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander read...

Jen Saunders, Phd candidate, University of Wollongong - avatar Jen Saunders, Phd candidate, University of Wollongong

Curious Kids: how are stars made?

Stars come into existence because of a powerful force of nature called gravity. ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy SchmidtIf you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it...

Orsola De Marco, Astrophysicist , Macquarie University - avatar Orsola De Marco, Astrophysicist , Macquarie University

What is perimenopause and how does it affect women's health in midlife?

Perimenopause lasts months for some women, and years for others. from www.shutterstock.comAll women know to expect the time in life when their periods finish and they reach menopause. Many might even...

Gita Mishra, Professor of Life Course Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland - avatar Gita Mishra, Professor of Life Course Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland

Vital signs. Our compulsory super system is broken. We ought to axe it, or completely reform it

We're taking money from people, letting it fall through the cracks, and spending no less than we were on pensions. ShutterstockThe just-announced inquiry into Australia’s retirement income syste...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

Might consciousness and free will be the aces up our sleeves when it comes to competing with robots?

Our advantage lies in incommensurables, and it'll grow in importance. Franck V. on UnsplashThe rise of artificial intelligence has led to widespread concern about the role of humans in the workplaces ...

Allan McCay, Law Lecturer, University of Sydney - avatar Allan McCay, Law Lecturer, University of Sydney

Should I stay or should I go: how 'city girls' can learn to feel at home in the country

Shutterstock/The ConversationA move to the country is often presented in popular culture as an idyllic life, a place where you can escape the pressures of the city. It’s in television shows su...

Rachael Wallis, Lecturer and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland - avatar Rachael Wallis, Lecturer and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland

Grattan on Friday: Storm clouds avoid the bush, darken over the economy

National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simson says she doesn't think the government has a drought policy. ShutterstockGovernment sources insist shock jock Alan Jones didn’t drive Thursday&...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Julianne Schultz appointed chair of The Conversation

Professor Julianne Schultz AM FAMA has been appointed chair of The Conversation Media Group, following the retirement of Harrison Young. Since becoming chairman in April 2017, Harrison has improved ...

Misha Ketchell, Editor & Executive Director, The Conversation - avatar Misha Ketchell, Editor & Executive Director, The Conversation

Cats are not scared off by dingoes. We must find another way to protect native animals

New research suggests feral cats can probably outsmart dingoes. Wikimedia/AAPFeral cats are wreaking havoc on our native wildlife, eating more than a billion animals across Australia every year. But ...

Bronwyn Fancourt, Adjunct Research Fellow, University of New England - avatar Bronwyn Fancourt, Adjunct Research Fellow, University of New England

Curious Kids: does chewing gum stay inside you for years?

Swallowing a lot of gum can cause it to stick together or stick to food in your gut. www.shuttershock.com, CC BYIf you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskids@th...

Jerry Zhou, Lecturer, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University - avatar Jerry Zhou, Lecturer, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University

Don't believe your ears: 'enhancing' forensic audio can mislead juries in criminal trials

Audio used as evidence in criminal trials can often be unreliable.  Many criminal trials feature forensic evidence in the form of audio recordings, typically from bugging houses or cars, or intercep...

Helen Fraser, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New England - avatar Helen Fraser, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New England

The case for 'inclusion riders' in creative industries: what Australian discrimination law says about quotas

In March last year, Frances McDormand won the Academy Award for Best Actress. In her acceptance speech, she drew attention to the female nominees in the room and left them with two final words: &ldq...

Liam Elphick, Adjunct Research Fellow, Law School, University of Western Australia - avatar Liam Elphick, Adjunct Research Fellow, Law School, University of Western Australia

The Portal review: can meditation change the world?

The Portal uses individual stories of meditative transformation to suggest a bigger change is possible. SuppliedThe Portal follows six individuals who undergo a personal transformation from trauma an...

Peggy Kern, Associate professor, University of Melbourne - avatar Peggy Kern, Associate professor, University of Melbourne

Why white married women are more likely to vote for conservative parties

Women’s perceptions of 'gender linked fate' were contingent on two dimensions: their race and their marital status. ShutterstockThe polls were wrong in the last US and Australian federal electi...

Leah Ruppanner, Associate Professor in Sociology and Co-Director of The Policy Lab, University of Melbourne - avatar Leah Ruppanner, Associate Professor in Sociology and Co-Director of The Policy Lab, University of Melbourne

Thoughts and prayers: miracles, Christianity and praying for rain

In a speech in Albury last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told his audience that he was praying for rain in drought-affected areas. “I pray for that rain everywhere else around the count...

Philip C. Almond, Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland - avatar Philip C. Almond, Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland

Prime Minister's science prizes awarded for algebra expertise, anti-cancer research and excellence in science teaching

Cheryl Praeger was awarded the 2019 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. She has spent more than four decades inspiring a love for maths in others, and has created a vast body of academic work i...

Michael Hopkin, Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation - avatar Michael Hopkin, Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation

Curious Kids: is it OK to listen to music while studying?

Does music usually put you in a better mood? That might help you try a little bit harder and stick with challenging tasks. Shutterstock I am in year 11 and I like to listen to music when I am studyin...

Timothy Byron, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Wollongong - avatar Timothy Byron, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Wollongong

A requiem for Reformasi as Joko Widodo unravels Indonesia's democratic legacy

It’s deeply ironic that Indonesia’s third president, BJ Habibie, died on September 11 – less than a week before the national legislature passed a law that gutted the highly-regarded ...

Tim Lindsey, Malcolm Smith Professor of Asian Law and Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, University of Melbourne - avatar Tim Lindsey, Malcolm Smith Professor of Asian Law and Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, University of Melbourne

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Questions to ask yourself before buying your watch

There are more and more watches on the market. And more and more brands are trying to seduce consu...

How to Thoroughly Prepare Children for a Professional Photoshoot at a Studio

Children are only young for a moment, which is why, for a lot of parents, it's essential to take a...

What to Expect at the University of Florida Tour

The University of Florida is a dream college for most aspiring students. Not only because of its p...

7 Professions that Will Be Huge in the Next Decade

In order to embark on a career path that requires a lot of training and experience, you might ne...