13 October 2006

UN Report encourages further efforts to counter violence against children

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) welcomed yesterday"s release of the United Nations Secretary-General"s Study on Violence against Children and urged the Australian Government to consider the report"s recommendations and further efforts to counter violence against children.

The "World Report on Violence Against Children" found that girls and boys of all cultures, classes, education, income and ethnic origin suffer or witness violence every day in the very places they should be safe - schools, communities and homes.

The report concluded that the majority of violence against children in Australia and around the world is perpetrated by people who are part of their daily lives - parents and their partners, schoolmates, teachers, and employers.

Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes said: "Protecting children from violence is a fundamental human right protected by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Violence against children is never justifiable."

The report recommends that governments: strengthen national and local commitment and action; prohibit all violence against children, and: prioritise prevention of violence against children.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said the recommendations were particularly relevant to Indigenous children in Australian communities.
"Indigenous children are entitled to live their lives in safety and full human dignity. This means without fear of family violence or abuse. This is their cultural and their human right.

"Government officials and community members should be fearless and bold in reporting suspected incidents of violence and abuse. This means government officers meeting their statutory obligations, meeting their duty of care and taking moral responsibility in the performance of their duties as public officials. Identifying and reporting the issues is only the start of the process and rehabilitation and healing programs must complement such actions."

The report also considers the impact of violence against children in institutions. HREOC investigated the devastating impact of institutional violence on children in its 2004 Inquiry into children in Australian immigration detention, which was outlined in its subsequent report "A last resort?".

"The Inquiry revealed that children in detention were exposed to multiple demonstrations, riots, hunger strikes and violent acts of self-harm. This had a significant and lasting impact on some children, particularly on their mental health," Commissioner Innes.

"We are relieved that children are no longer held in immigration detention centres in Australia for extended periods of time. This report is a timely reminder of the devastating effects that violence can have on children regardless of where it takes place."

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Last updated 28 September, 2006