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National Human Rights Consultation - Appendix 6

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Friday 14 December, 2012

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Appendix 6 – Summary
of Commission workshops for children and young people

word icon Appendix 6: Summary of Commission workshops for children and young people

 

Contents


  1. In February 2009, the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission)
    was funded by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) to undertake a project
    to support the participation of children and young people in the National Human
    Rights Consultation. The core element of this project was the conduct of
    workshops designed to encourage the participation of children and young people.
    This Appendix describes these workshops and summarises the key issues raised in
    the workshops.

1 Description of
workshops

1.1 How many workshops
were conducted?

  1. In total, the Commission conducted 26 workshops with children, young people
    and youth advocates across Australia. The Commission visited and conducted
    workshops in each state and territory in the following towns and regions:

    • Queensland – Brisbane, Deception Bay and Toowoomba
    • Tasmania – Hobart and Devonport
    • South Australia – Adelaide
    • Victoria – Melbourne, Koondrook and Knox City
    • Australian Capital Territory – Canberra
    • New South Wales – Sydney and Bathurst
    • Western Australia – Perth, Halls Creek and Kununurra
    • Northern Territory – Yirrkala, Yuendumu, Alice Springs and
      Darwin.
  2. In addition, the Commission made presentations on human rights and the
    National Human Rights Consultation (the Consultation) at events organised for,
    or about, children and young people. For example, the Commission made seven
    presentations at the NSW Parliament’s school leadership forum in Sydney,
    with approximately 100 secondary school students from across NSW attending each
    event.

1.2 Who participated
in the workshops?

  1. Between March and May 2009, Commission staff met with over 400 children and
    young people at the workshops across all states and territories in Australia,
    and approximately 700 young people through the NSW Parliament’s school
    leadership forum (mentioned above). Commission staff also met with over 100
    advocates from children’s and young people’s organisations across
    Australia.
  2. Most of the children and young people who attended the workshops were
    between 13 and 20 years of age. However, two workshops were held specifically
    for primary school children.
  3. The children and young people came from a variety of backgrounds
    including:

    • Indigenous (including seven specific workshops in the NT and WA)
    • gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex (GLBTI) (including two
      specific workshops)
    • rural (including 13 workshops in regional or remote locations)
    • homeless (including one workshop held at a drop-in centre for homeless
      youth)
    • young single mothers
    • culturally and linguistically diverse (including one specific workshop for
      young CALD people and their advocates).
  4. Children and young people’s advocates included representatives from a
    variety of organisations such as youth workers, teachers, youth affairs councils
    and children’s rights organisations.

1.3 What were the key
aims of the workshops?

  1. The key aims of the workshops were to:

    • educate children and young people about human rights issues in
      Australia
    • encourage broad participation by children and young people in the
      Consultation.
  2. In the Commission’s view, it was important to encourage participation
    by children and young people in the Consultation because they will inherit the
    human rights protection framework which may result from the Consultation.
  3. Children and young people often do not have a voice in government
    consultations, especially those on issues of law and politics. Furthermore,
    recent human rights issues are of particular interest to children and young
    people, including issues such as children in detention, homelessness, Indigenous
    children and the Northern Territory intervention, bullying and discrimination
    issues, and environmental issues.
  4. By supporting participation in the Consultation, the Commission was also
    promoting one of the guiding principles of the United Nations Convention on
    the Rights of the Child
    (CRC) to which Australia is a party. Article 12 of
    the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have the right to
    express their views freely in all matters that affect them, and these views are
    to be given due weight.

1.4 How were the
workshops conducted?

  1. Most of the workshops were conducted in a similar format. They were
    structured to be as interactive as possible, while providing an overview of
    human rights generally and an overview of the Consultation. Discussions were
    facilitated around the three consultation questions:

    • Which human rights (and responsibilities) should be protected and
      promoted?
    • Are these human rights sufficiently protected and promoted in
      Australia?
    • How could Australia better protect and promote human rights?
  2. In discussing these three questions, young people were encouraged to share
    their stories and their views.
  3. The conduct of the workshops was also tailored to the particular needs of
    the participants. For example, some were more informal than others due to the
    nature of the group. All participants were asked for their consent for the
    Commission to take notes and summarise their views in de-identified form.
  4. The workshops concluded with suggestions on how young people could
    participate in the Consultation. Commission materials including a Consultation
    toolkit designed for children and young people and a submission form were
    distributed to participants at most workshops.

1.5 Materials to
support the participation of children and young people in the
Consultation

  1. In addition to conducting workshops, the Commission developed Let’s
    Talk About Rights – a guide to help young people have their say about
    human rights in Australia
    . The guide explains the purpose of the
    Consultation, and how children and young people could make a submission about
    the human rights issues about which they feel most strongly. The Commission
    printed 5000 copies of the guide, which were distributed through workshops and
    youth networks. The guide is also available at www.humanrights.gov.au/letstalkaboutrights/youth.html and in printed form.
  2. The Commission also developed and printed submission forms for young people,
    to make it easier for them to answer the three main questions asked by the
    Consultation Committee. The submission form is available at http://humanrights.gov.au/letstalkaboutrights/youth.html and in printed form.
  3. The Commission’s materials were highlighted through online activities
    designed to engage children and young people in the Consultation. This included
    a Commission presence on Facebook and MySpace, and the facilitation of online
    discussion and information relevant to the Consultation on youth portals such as
    Heywire (http://blogs.abc.net.au/heywire) and
    JustAct (www.justact.org.au/action-35-realise-human-rights).
    Commission staff also participated in discussions about human rights in the e-festival of ideas, which is an online youth conference run by Vibewire.

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2 Summary of workshop
discussions

2.1 What were the main
human rights issues raised by participants in the workshops?

  1. Workshops with children and young people and youth advocates provided an
    opportunity to discuss which human rights are important to young people, and
    why. The discussion in this part of the workshop corresponded to the first two
    questions posed by the National Human Rights Consultation.
  2. Given the variety of backgrounds of workshop participants, it is not
    surprising that a wide range of human rights issues were discussed. However,
    some issues were raised a number of times, as follows:

(a) Equality and freedom from discrimination

  1. Participants thought that it was important for all people to be treated
    equally and to not be discriminated against because of their race, religion,
    ethnicity, culture, sex or any other factor. Some participants gave examples of
    when they thought their treatment before the law had been unequal because they
    were young. For example, it was felt that magistrates might give more weight to
    the opinion of an older person over a younger person.
  2. One or two participants felt that some minority groups should not be given
    ‘special treatment’. Another participant suggested that measures
    such as the Northern Territory Intervention should not be applied to certain
    groups based on their race; rather, if the government felt that measures should
    be taken in response to a particular problem, those measures should be applied
    to all people on an equal basis.
  3. GBLTI participants were concerned that people who are transgender and sex
    diverse are not covered by the law. One or two participants raised the
    difficulties faced by transgender people seeking recognition of their identity
    on official documents. They thought that this represented a breach of the right
    to be treated equally before the law. Some participants thought that everyone
    should be entitled to marry whomever they want to regardless of their sexual
    preference.
  4. Some Indigenous participants told of being treated differently because of
    their Aboriginal background.
  5. One young Sudanese participant said they had experienced conflicts between
    their culture and Australian culture, which impacted upon their right to a fair
    trial and to equality before the law. For example, they were assumed to be
    guilty or lying because they do not make direct eye contact in their
    culture.
  6. Several participants raised examples of racial vilification, particularly
    towards members of the African community. This included letter drops of
    race-hate material and the placement of race-hate literature in the
    children’s section of the library.

(b) The right to education

  1. Participants across Australia identified various aspects of the right to
    education as very important to them.
  2. Availability – Participants from workshops in remote areas of
    Australia expressed concerns that children and young people in remote areas do
    not enjoy their right to education on an equal basis with young people in urban
    areas. Likewise, these young people felt that the range of subjects offered is
    more limited than in urban schools and that teachers were often young,
    inexperienced and transient.
  3. Indigenous participants thought that they should be able to go to a school
    that is not too far from their home. They said that moving young people away
    from their homes and their families makes them homesick. Boarding schools do not
    suit everyone, so schools should be available in local areas. Where students
    live in very remote communities they should have boarding schools that are not
    so far away so that students can go home on weekends.
  4. Accessibility – Many participants noted the interconnectedness
    between the right to education and many other rights. Young people identified
    several barriers to accessing and remaining in education, such as:

    • lack of stable housing
    • limited support for young women who are pregnant or parenting
    • lack of access to affordable childcare
    • lack of access to an adequate standard of living and not being able to
      afford a school uniform (for example, one young person told her story of being
      expelled on the last day of school for not wearing the correct uniform)
    • inaccessible services for young people with disability
    • the difficulties for some young people to obtain parental consent at school
      when they have run away from home or their parents are absent.
  5. Young people also identified a cascading effect when basic education is not
    accessible. That is, if a young person is unable to access education, they might
    be unable to access work, which leads to no money for housing, food and other
    things needed to fully enjoy their human rights.
  6. Adaptability – Participants from culturally and linguistically
    diverse communities thought that education about different cultures should be
    included in schools. Young people thought that more language officers or
    teachers should be ‘in touch’ with students of different cultural
    backgrounds.
  7. Other young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds expressed a need for
    teachers’ aides in the classroom similar to teachers’ aides provided
    for young people with disabilities in schools. They reported that children from
    refugee and migrant backgrounds cannot always understand what is going on in the
    classroom. This can lead to bad behaviours, which can lead to expulsion or
    suspension from school. Participants felt that the cause of this frustration
    – an inability to fully understand Australian English – should be
    addressed.
  8. The Commission heard a number of stories of school yard discrimination and
    bullying on the grounds of sexual orientation, race and for failing to conform
    to stereotypes. Bullying was often mentioned by participants as a problem within
    schools. One participant described an occasion where bullying within school had
    led to suicide. Many young people thought that more should be done to prevent
    bullying in schools. Some participants raised the issue of discrimination in
    schools against young GLBTI people. This was especially of concern for those who
    were transgender. Participants gave examples of having to use communal showers
    and toilets being deliberately locked so that they could not change discretely.
  9. Bullying and racial discrimination also extended to university students.
    Participants who were international students gave examples of physical and
    verbal abuse both on and off the university campus.
  10. Many participants thought it was important that human rights education be
    included in the curriculum. This is discussed in further detail below.
  11. Acceptability – Indigenous participants and participants from
    refugee and migrant backgrounds discussed the importance of education which is
    culturally appropriate and non-discriminatory. In particular, young people in
    Indigenous-specific workshops valued the right to speak and learn their own
    language and culture in school. In particular, they thought that the four hours
    of mandatory English in Northern Territory schools discriminated against
    Indigenous students affected by this policy. Indigenous young people thought it
    was unfair to impose English as mandatory on people for whom this is neither the
    first language nor the language that transmits the culture. No school policy or
    other policy should stop people from speaking in their mother tongue.
  12. Young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds and their advocates
    emphasised the importance of recognition of prior learning, and also of ensuring
    culturally sensitive and inclusive teaching practices.

(c) The right to be safe and free from
violence

  1. Many young workshop participants thought that their right, and the right of
    others, to be safe from violence was important. Young Indigenous people felt
    that there needed to be more police presence in smaller remote communities to
    ensure that communities feel safe.
  2. Homeless participants described the high levels of violence faced by some
    young people who are homeless.
  3. Domestic violence was an issue of concern amongst many participants, having
    experienced it themselves in an abusive relationship or having witnessed it
    between their parents. Some participants had experienced serious and ongoing
    domestic violence within their families. For example, one 13-year-old
    participant had grown up in a violent household and had left his family home as
    a result. Another 20-year-old participant was living in a refuge after growing
    up in a house with domestic violence. At one workshop, a high proportion of the
    young women who attended the workshop had experienced domestic violence and had
    fled abusive relationships. Several participants raised the issue of child abuse
    and the need for children to be cared for in appropriate alternative settings if
    they are subjected to abuse in the family home.
  4. GLBTI participants raised concerns about violence, especially in relation to
    homophobic violence, and emotional violence and abuse. Transgender participants
    mentioned the importance of being protected from institutionalised violence,
    such as being put into gender appropriate cells in prison.
  5. Young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds also expressed concerns
    about being subjected to both physical and verbal violence. In particular,
    international students expressed fear about walking around at
    night.

(d) The right to not be separated from your
family

  1. Young Indigenous people felt that where parents are unable or incapable of
    looking after their children, the government has a role to intervene and
    children should be placed with the right family members. In cases of child abuse
    or neglect the child should not be further punished by being moved far away from
    family and country.
  2. Some participants described having negative experiences with the child
    protection system. One participant believed that she had been discriminated
    against and stereotyped as a bad parent because she had been a foster child
    herself. Her children had been removed, including one within 24 hours of birth.
    She felt that she had not been given the chance to prove herself as a mother,
    had not been given counselling, and her right to participate in decision-making
    had been breached.

(e) The right to work and fair working
conditions

  1. Many participants expressed the desire to work but had difficulties
    accessing jobs. One young participant could not get a job or a place to sleep.
    She had a history of violence and a criminal record. She had been on the streets
    since she was 12, and felt that she had not been given a ‘fair
    go’.
  2. Others also discussed difficulties in getting a job. One participant
    expressed concern that if you turn up late to an interview, you are not given a
    second chance. Some participants found it difficult to work when they were
    homeless and found it difficult to negotiate getting to work or to an interview.
    Some participants mentioned discrimination experienced by young people from
    refugee and migrant backgrounds in looking for work and from job network
    services. They also felt that it was important that employment was appropriate
    and fell within the young person’s skill set.
  3. Some participants expressed a view that young people were being exploited in
    the workplace and in traineeships – being treated as ‘cheap
    labour’ and not being paid the same rates as adults when they were doing
    the same, if not more, work. They felt that this was not fair and that if they
    were doing the same amount of work, they should not be discriminated against in
    terms of pay. Some participants had also experienced that when they turned 21,
    they were ‘too expensive’ to be employed.
  4. International university students gave examples of being unfairly taken
    advantage of in the workplace and being paid less, just so that they can get a
    job. They also thought that the restrictions placed on student visas should be
    more lenient. One participant gave the example of an international student who
    was placed in an immigration detention centre for a week over Christmas because,
    on one occasion, he worked an extra two hours to cover for a work colleague, and
    in doing so breached his student visa conditions.

(f) Police harassment

  1. Police harassment was identified by participants across Australia as a major
    issue. Several participants felt that police ‘pick on’ young people
    ‘for fun’ and that there was nothing that young people could
    do:

    My brother was just walking down the street with his friends ...
    the police officer said to him ‘I’ve been doing this for so long, I
    know how to pick youse’. And, like, just because of the way they were
    walking and the way they were dressed. He had a backpack on. The police pulled
    over and said ‘what’s in your backpack, let me look in your
    backpack’.

  2. Young Indigenous people felt that they were discriminated against or
    ‘hounded’ by police. They also felt that they should not be
    questioned by police unless they have an elder or a parent with them, and they
    should be informed of their rights before being questioned.
  3. Participants from African communities raised issues of police harassment and
    racial discrimination. Some mentioned the use of ‘move on’ powers by
    police. It was felt that this was used against young people who are homeless,
    young African people and young people generally because of their age. As one
    homeless participant stated:

    This is where we live so how can we not
    be in the streets here?

(g) Access to services

  1. Many participants identified difficulties in accessing various
    services.
  2. Economic, social and cultural rights were often raised as being the most
    important rights for young people. There was a strong awareness that these
    rights were interconnected and that there are flow-on effects if one right is
    violated.

    The security of having a job ... to pay for your house, to
    pay for food, to pay for your health care, to have you finish off your education
    ... there’s so many intertwined things.

(i) Housing and shelter

  1. Many participants emphasised the importance of access to shelter and the
    right to an adequate standard of living and highlighted problems with
    homelessness in both rural and urban areas. Several participants felt that
    homelessness was perhaps less visible in rural areas, but that people at risk of
    homelessness in rural communities are disadvantaged in that they do not have
    access to as many support services as people in urban areas.
  2. Several participants described difficulties they have experienced in
    accessing shelter, and problems faced by homeless young people and members of
    the GLBTI community in accessing housing. Some participants felt that there
    needed to be alternative accommodation available for victims of domestic
    violence.
  3. Participants from Toowoomba stated that there was no place for young
    pregnant women to go when they needed emergency crisis housing. The
    women’s shelters would not take them if they were under 18, and the mixed
    young people’s shelters would not take them if they were pregnant, out of
    concern about the potential risks to the unborn child in that environment.

    With me being a mum of a little boy ... my main focus is housing
    and food ... it’s just survival mode.

  4. The lack of housing for Indigenous people was also raised as an area of
    concern by some participants.

(ii) Mental health services

  1. Participants identified the high need, but inadequate funding for,
    counselling and mental health support services.
  2. Some participants also felt that it was especially difficult for people with
    mental illness to find a place to live.

(iii) Health care

  1. Many participants agreed on the importance of a right to adequate health
    care.
  2. Some participants were concerned about the lack of health services for
    Indigenous people.
  3. Young mothers were concerned about waiting times in hospital (citing
    examples of up to 6-10 hours duration). They felt that hospitals were
    inefficient and there were not enough staff or beds.
  4. Participants from rural and remote areas were concerned about the fact that
    their remote communities do not have equal or adequate access to health services
    including GPs and hospitals. Participants gave examples of lengthy
    doctors’ waiting periods, hospitals being located far away, and of not
    being listened to when visiting a doctor. One participant raised concerns about
    difficulties faced by young people in rural and remote areas in getting access
    to adequate, safe and confidential advice and services related to safe sex,
    contraception and abortion. Another raised concerns about the lack of adequate
    access to youth de-tox services in rural and remote areas.
  5. Some participants gave examples of the importance of access to health care
    such as the stigmas associated with body image and reduced
    self-esteem.

(iv) Adequate standard of living

  1. One participant stated that the Centrelink rates of social security payments
    were insufficient to provide for an adequate standard of living for
    families.

(h) Participation in decisions that affect young
people

  1. Some participants mentioned the problem of young people not being listened
    to and their views being disregarded.
  2. Participants generally agreed that young people should be given greater
    opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their lives. One
    participant gave the example that young people should have a say in decisions
    such as designing public spaces. Participants mentioned that participation
    should not be merely ‘lip service’ and that decisions should not
    already be made when the consultation process begins.
  3. This right was also thought to be important in terms of
    ‘move-on’ laws which often affect young people on a disproportionate
    basis.

(i) The right to language, culture and
religion

  1. Several participants who had come to Australia as migrants raised the
    importance of being able to speak their native language and practice their own
    culture, and also to be able to access services in their own language. There was
    concern expressed that current measures to address these issues were tokenistic.
    One participant told of being laughed at for speaking another language.
  2. Some Indigenous participants emphasised the right to practice their
    languages and culture both in the school environment and in other places. They
    thought that no school policy or other policy should stop people from speaking
    in their mother tongue. If such policies were to be introduced, they would
    destroy Indigenous society.
  3. Some participants thought it was important to be able to practice your
    religion and not be harassed about it.

(j) The right to privacy

  1. Transgender participants thought that it was important that their gender
    history was kept private. They also mentioned the importance of privacy in
    places such as the changing rooms in schools.
  2. Several participants thought that the right to privacy was very important,
    particularly given the development of new technologies (such as social
    networking sites on the internet). Some participants expressed the need for laws
    to remain current with technological development.

(k) The right to country

  1. Indigenous participants thought that it was important that Aboriginal people
    should be able to fish on their country, and should not have to obey laws about
    fish size or bag limits that apply to other people who are not traditional
    owners. For example, Yolngu people have a right to the fish and take other
    resources from Yolngu land and they should not have to obey Australian laws and
    by-laws about hunting and gathering on this land.

(l) Other issues

  1. Other human rights issues which were raised by young people included:

    • access to water
    • the rights of prisoners to fair treatment
    • child protection
    • the right not to be separated from family
    • the rights of non-biological parents in same-sex relationships
    • the rights of section 457 (temporary worker) visa holders
    • the rights of victims of crimes
    • the right to a fair trial
    • the rights of people with disability
    • freedom of expression
    • environmental rights and the effects of climate
      change.

2.2 What were some
ideas for better protection of human rights raised by workshop
participants?

  1. At most workshops, participants were asked to discuss their ideas for
    addressing the human rights issues they had raised. Common ideas were as
    follows:

(a) Better human rights education

(i) At school

  1. Many children and young workshop participants thought that there needed to
    be a change in attitudes in Australia. It was suggested that one of the ways
    this could be done was through human rights education – both in the school
    system and through community education. Several participants thought that this
    should be done as early as possible – in kindergarten and when children
    are learning literacy and numeracy. Young participants felt that, although you
    might not be able to change people’s opinions, you could give them a
    better perspective of human rights. For example, some participants emphasised
    the need for GLBTI issues to be taught at school and to teachers. Participants
    from refugee and migrant backgrounds emphasised the need to teach about
    different cultures in the classroom.
  2. Many participants said that human rights education should begin at
    school:

    Human rights [education] would be better than tricky
    algebra

    [School] should have a whole class for [human rights education]

    [Human rights education is] not just for yourself but so you know what other
    people’s rights are so you have to respect the other person because of
    their rights

    [Human rights education] might even help with bullying.

  3. Some participants said that subjects such as Society and Environment, Legal
    Studies and events such as Harmony Day or Refugee Day (where they learn about
    other cultures) were a good way of educating about human rights. However, some
    participants did not feel as though they had been taught enough about specific
    human rights through those avenues. Another participant noted that anything they
    learn in school about human rights issues is focussed on other countries, not
    Australia:

    It never seems to have anything to do with close to
    home, its always Iraq, Rwanda, Chernobyl.

  4. He wondered why human rights are not talked about in connection with matters
    closer to home – such as the cost of basic necessities and the inadequate
    level of social security payments.
  5. One participant suggested a solution following the example of American
    schools. They thought that if Australia could set up an ally system to connect
    schools in the region, they could connect different communities and strengthen
    minority groups.
  6. One participant suggested that human rights education should be provided to
    young people who are not in mainstream schools or who may not be attending
    school regularly.

(ii) For teachers, employers, police and courts

  1. Some participants thought that there needed to be funding in order for
    teachers to be trained in teaching human rights in the classroom.
  2. Many participants thought that there should also be specific education or
    training on human rights obligations and cultural diversity for employers,
    employees, police and the courts.

(iii) For the community

  1. Many participants thought that more was needed in order to address community
    attitudes and to target stereotypes and racism. In terms of community education,
    participants thought that initiatives such as television advertising, video
    games, internet and public forums could be used to change attitudes. One
    participant mentioned that there should be an advertising campaign on the causes
    and effects of discrimination and domestic violence – in the same way that
    there are advertisements about the effects of smoking, sun-tanning and drug use.
    Some participants thought that there needed to be increased education about the
    rights of members of the GLBTI community.
  2. Better leadership was raised as a means to send out a human rights message.
    It was suggested that Kevin Rudd should go on television and talk about human
    rights. Some participants also thought that there should be a federal Minister
    for Human Rights which would place human rights high on the agenda.
  3. Some participants thought that there should be more workshops about human
    rights – similar to these Commission workshops – and that more
    funding should be given to the Commission to conduct its educative role. Others
    thought that there should be more regular consultation on human rights issues in
    order to draw attention to issues of concern in the community. This, it was
    thought, would be a proactive way for government to engage with vulnerable
    groups to identify major concerns.
  4. A number of participants said that young people need to know what their
    human rights are, and to assist with that, it would be a good idea to have all
    our human rights listed in one area. Some participants thought that signs about
    children’s rights should be put up in train stations so that young people
    knew their rights if they encountered police or a transit officer.
  5. Several participants thought that there should be more social inclusion of
    people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and GLBTI and
    other minority groups as this is ‘when you learn’.
  6. Some Indigenous participants thought that government should provide
    education about child neglect and protect children when their parents are unable
    to look after them.

(b) School programs to address bullying

  1. Many children and young people suggested that there need to be measures that
    address discrimination and bullying in schools. Some ideas included:

    • mediation processes in schools for bullying
    • changing terminology for bullying – ‘bullying’ sounds too
      young and not serious enough for the effect it has
    • anti-bullying policies at schools.

(c) Legal protections for human rights

  1. Some participants expressed the view that protection of human rights in
    Australia was currently only tokenistic.
  2. Some participants suggested that there should be stronger legal protections
    for human rights. Some thought that there should be a national Human Rights Act,
    while others stated that there should be a new law with all human rights set out
    in a clear and specific way. Some participants who raised this said that it was
    important that this law ‘was not just words’. Any Human Rights Act
    needed to have real ‘teeth’ and be community-driven.
  3. One participant thought that because there was no Australian statement of
    human rights, it was hard to know what their rights were. He thought that at a
    minimum there should be some statement of rights in Australia. Some participants
    thought that it was important to be able to enforce your human rights. Other
    participants thought that there should also be corresponding
    responsibilities.
  4. However, one participant was concerned that a national law might be used by
    criminals to ‘beat the system’. Others expressed concerns about
    limiting human rights by defining them too narrowly, or not being able to change
    them in the future.
  5. Some participants felt that there needed to be more transparency in
    government. One participant suggested that there should be a stronger body
    charged with monitoring human rights in Australia in order to keep the
    Australian Government more accountable. Another participant emphasised the
    importance of making sure that governments are held accountable for implementing
    the obligations they have agreed to which relate to economic, social and
    cultural rights. He noted that human rights are not just about restraining
    government action, but are also about placing positive obligations on government
    to act to ensure that rights are fulfilled.

(i) Legal protections for young people and their
families

  1. Some participants thought that there should be enforceable remedies for
    young people being exploited in traineeships.
  2. Other participants thought that there should be a mechanism to challenge the
    use of ‘move on’ powers, especially when they discriminate against
    young people who are homeless or on the basis of race or age.
  3. One participant thought that laws should be strengthened to prevent domestic
    violence. Another thought that it should be illegal for parents to hit their
    children.

(ii) Legal protections for GLBTI young people

  1. Some participants thought that state and federal discrimination laws should
    be amended to provide coverage for people who are GLBTI.

(iii) Legal protections for Indigenous peoples

  1. Indigenous participants thought that police and others should be provided
    with more information about Aboriginal customary law, especially as it applies
    to Aboriginal marriage and consent to a relationship.
  2. In addition, Indigenous participants thought that there should be special
    laws for Aboriginal people so they can practice their culture. They thought that
    government should make a commitment to value Indigenous language and
    culture.
  3. They also thought that laws should be changed so that Aboriginal people have
    particular rights to the resources on their country, and this information should
    be made available to all Aboriginal people so they know what the rules
    are.

(d) Young people should have more say in decisions
that affect them

  1. A number of participants felt that children and young people should have
    more say in decisions that affect them, and that this would improve protection
    of human rights. As one participant suggested, ‘everyone should have a
    say’.
  2. Participants thought that there should be increased access to information,
    and that if young people were made aware of processes, they could be involved in
    the decision-making processes that affect them.
  3. Some young people were concerned that children and young people did not know
    where to go if they felt that their human rights had been breached. Several
    participants said that there was a need for greater access to advice about what
    children and young people can do when their human rights have been breached.
    Primary school children suggested that:

    There needs to be an
    organisation that listens to parents and kids – and you need to be able to
    walk or drive there!

    We need a big complaints box at school.

  4. There was also recognition that children may need an adult that they trust,
    and who understands them, to speak up for them, or to help them when their human
    rights have been violated.
  5. There were also suggestions that the voting age be lowered so that young
    people can have their say in elections.

(e) Relations between young people and
police

  1. Many participants suggested ways of improving relations between young people
    and police, and protecting young people’s rights. These included:

    • education for young people, such as a ‘police in schools’
      program; more information for young people about their rights, especially in
      regard to police questioning and what they can do if they are harassed by the
      police
    • education and training for the police, courts and other people in positions
      of authority – including training on social inclusion and cultural
      diversity; respect for human rights and training about the law so that police do
      not question young people who are underage without an adult present; training in
      child development
    • youth community liaison officers to assist young people when they are
      detained or when police want to question them
    • greater accountability of the police and people in positions of authority
      such as greater power for the Ombudsman in relation to complaints made about the
      police or a separate body from the police to inform police that they need to
      protect human rights
    • increased government funding of police stations in small communities.
      Indigenous participants in remote communities thought that if there are more
      than 50 people in the community there should be a local police
      officer.

(f) Appropriate funding and access to
services

  1. A number of participants across Australia thought that there needed to be
    appropriate funding for all initiatives to protect human rights. Some
    participants thought that there should be increased rates of social security
    payments to ensure an adequate standard of living for all people in
    Australia.

(i) Rural and remote communities

  1. Participants in rural and remote areas, were unanimous in supporting the
    need for greater access to basic services in particular in terms of education,
    health care and support services for people at risk of homelessness.
  2. Indigenous participants thought that government should use technology to
    bring quality drinking water to communities, even if they are small. People have
    the right to be on their land and should not have to leave because the drinking
    water is bad.
  3. Indigenous participants thought that government should provide resources for
    remote communities and make sure that all people are able to live healthy
    lives.

(ii) People with disability

  1. Participants suggested that there was a need for more public housing and
    support services for young people who are homeless or have a mental
    illness.
  2. One participant thought that more employers should link people with
    disability to specific disability support agencies, as these agencies can train
    and help people with a disability to perform certain jobs.
  3. Some participants thought that buildings needed to be made more accessible
    for people with disabilities.

(iii) People who are homeless

  1. One participant who had moved out of home because of domestic violence
    thought that more public housing should be made available to young people who
    are homeless.
  2. Another young person living in a refuge said that government agencies should
    work faster to help people at risk of homelessness. If homeless people could get
    into public accommodation more quickly, they would have an address they could
    use to receive social security payments.

(iv) Young people

  1. One participant thought that there should be more support services
    (accommodation, police support, child protection, psychological counselling) for
    young people subjected to domestic violence, homeless young people and young
    people with mental illness.
  2. Some participants thought that there should be more support for young people
    so that they are not afraid to identify as GLBTI.

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