THE AUSTRALIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
March 24, 2020
This week, staff at the Australian Human Rights Commission were planning to gather to farewell our colleague Megan Mitchell, who has finished her seven-year term as Australia’s inaugural National Children’s Commissioner.
While we had looked forward to celebrating Megan and her significant achievements as Commissioner, those celebrations have of course now been postponed and we look forward to gathering at a later date.
Megan was appointed as National Children’s Commissioner in March 2013, bringing to the role her background as the former New South Wales Commissioner for Children and Young People, as CEO of the Australian Council of Social Services, and roles in community and family services in NSW and the ACT.
She has a valuable understanding of working with vulnerable children and children from all backgrounds, and practical experience in child protection, juvenile justice, disabilities, foster and kinship care, and early intervention and prevention services.
Shortly after she started as National Children’s Commissioner, Megan conducted ‘The Big Banter’, a national listening tour to hear from children, young people and their advocates about their key human rights concerns.
It is this dedication to ensuring children have a genuine say on the issues that affect their lives that has made Megan such a powerful advocate. Throughout her term, she has consistently sought out the direct views of children and their advocates.
Megan has made child safety the centre of everything she does. She was responsible for the development of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations which were endorsed by COAG in February 2019.
The findings of her landmark reports on suicide and self-harm, family violence, the implications of OPCAT in custodial detention, have shaped policy and advocacy in promoting the rights of Australian children.
Her final report, In Their Own Right: Children’s Rights In Australia, followed Australia’s appearance before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in September 2019.
In Their Own Right covers the work Megan has undertaken over the past seven years, and makes recommendations to improve the wellbeing of all Australian children and honour Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The report is a very significant piece of work, and we commend it to anyone who has not yet had a chance to read it. It covers the rights that all children need to thrive, including having a home and family, access to a quality education and healthcare, being safe from harm, and having a voice of their own.
In Their Own Right recognises that while most children in Australia live in a safe and healthy environment, there are some groups of children whose rights are not adequately protected.
Those groups include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children with disability, and lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children. More needs to be done to protect the rights of these children to improve their wellbeing and allow them to thrive.
On her first day as National Children’s Commissioner, Megan said she wanted, “the views of our youngest citizens, who make up a quarter of our population to be sought, heard and taken up by adults in our community. I want children’s participation to become the norm.”
The children and young people of Australia have been extraordinarily fortunate to have an advocate like Megan in their corner for the past seven years, and we have been lucky to have her as our colleague.
On behalf of everyone at the Australian Human Rights Commission, we thank Megan for her dedicated service and wish her all the very best for the future.