What are children’s rights?

Children as well as adults have human rights. Children also have the right to special protection because of their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse.

The main international human rights treaty on children’s rights is the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world. Australia ratified the CRC in December 1990, which means that Australia has a duty to ensure that all children in Australia enjoy the rights set out in the treaty.

The CRC incorporates the whole spectrum of human rights - civil, political, economic, social and cultural - and sets out the specific ways these rights should be ensured for children and young people. The CRC recognises that children have the same human rights as adults, while also needing special protection due to their vulnerability.

Some of the guiding principles in the CRC are

  • respect for the best interests of the child as a primary consideration
  • the right to survival and development
  • the right of all children to express their views freely on all matters affecting them
  • the right of all children to enjoy all the rights of the CRC without discrimination of any kind.

Click here for the full text of the CRC

Click here for a child-friendly version of the CRC on the UNICEF website

Click here for our poster showing 12 key rights in the CRC

How are children’s rights protected in Australia?

Most children and young people in Australia grow up in a safe, healthy and positive environment.

However, twenty-four years after Australia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, vulnerable groups of children and young people in this country continue to lack adequate human rights protections.
 
This was highlighted in the Concluding Observations on Australia issued by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on 15 June 2012.
 
 
 
 
Children experiencing homelessness or mental health issues, children with disability, children in immigration detention and Indigenous children can be particularly at risk of falling through the gaps.
 
The voices of children and young people are also rarely heard when decisions are made about the issues that affect their lives.
 
Over the years, the Australian Human Rights Commission has undertaken a number of major projects to draw community attention to the serious human rights challenges facing vulnerable groups of children. 
 
This work was given a new focus in 2013 when Ms Megan Mitchell, Australia's inaugural National Children's Commissioner was appointed to the Commission.
 
The National Children's Commissioner's key duties include:
 
• Advocating nationally for the rights and interests of children and young people – this includes all children and young people up to eighteen years of age
• Promoting children’s participation in decisions that impact on them
• Providing national leadership and coordination on child rights issues
• Promoting awareness of and respect for the rights of children and young people in Australia
• Undertaking research about children’s rights
• Looking at laws, policies and programs to ensure they protect and uphold the rights of children and young people.
 
To do this work, the National Children's Commissioner consults widely with children and young people and their representatives. The Commissioner's activities also complement the important work of state and territory children's commissioners and guardians.
 
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