Friday, 20 November 2009

Anniversary calls for new national Children’s Commissioner

Today’s 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the perfect time to revisit the idea of establishing a national Children’s Commissioner, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission Cathy Branson QC, said today.

Ms Branson said a national Children’s Commissioner would be an important step Australia could take towards improving the protection of children’s rights.

“The Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of the world’s most important human rights treaties, and the most widely ratified treaty in the history of the United Nations,” Ms Branson said.

“The 20th anniversary today is a cause to celebrate the achievements of the Convention as a global milestone in the recognition that human rights are children’s rights. However, we cannot afford to be complacent.”

Ms Branson said the need for a national Children’s Commissioner seemed to be reinforced by the events of this week, which have included the Prime Minister’s apology to the Forgotten Children and former child migrants, and the release of figures showing an almost 40 per cent increase in numbers of children reported as victims of child abuse over the last three years.

“The right to an adequate standard of living, the right to health care, the right to education, or the right to protection from violence might seem to be a given in 21st Century Australia. But we know from recent experience that these rights are still not enjoyed by many children and young people in Australia today,” Ms Branson said.

Ms Branson said there was no better time to act than now, given the first National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in April this year.

“We, as a nation, must take positive measures to promote the safety and well-being of our children,” Ms Branson said.

“Establishing a national Children’s Commissioner would be a significant step we could take immediately.

“While there are Children’s Commissioners and Guardians set up in each of the states and territories, there is no one dedicated to ensuring a comprehensive approach to protecting children’s rights across Australia, or to advocating for the rights of children who fall through the gaps, such as children in immigration detention.

“Now, almost 20 years after we ratified this ground-breaking document, it is time to put in place mechanisms to protect the rights and well-being of all our children.”

Media contact: Louise McDermott 02 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597