Centrecare Director and Valuing Children Initiative’s Founder, Adj. Professor Tony Pietropiccolo, is currently in Geneva at the United Nations HQ to take part in the Committee on the Rights of the Child as part of a group representing Australia globally.
Day 2 The 3 hour session on the second day was mainly taken up with the Australian government answering the Committee’s many questions from the previous day. I was particularly happy to see that the Committee raised the issue of child poverty at my suggestion as it was a matter that had not been raised on the first day. This is important as it will now be mentioned in the Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations.
The Committee was interested in child health especially such matters as obesity, ADHD, suicide and mental health generally. There were also questions on Aboriginal matters such as the high levels of incarceration of Aboriginal young people, especially what was happening with the Royal Commission recommendations related to the Don Dale juvenile facility. It was mentioned that even though Aboriginal young people are only 5% of Aus children, 50% of those on supervision orders were Aboriginal. The teaching of Aboriginal language and the quality of education in remote communities was also raised.
Of interest to the Committee were also such matters as the age of criminal responsibility, which is currently 10 years old in Australia, as well as the children experience of disability services and their involvement in decision making in this area.
They were also keen to hear as the extent to which the voices of children were being sought and heard through such mechanisms as children’s parliaments.
It reiterated its concern in regards to the area of child protection in Australia. One of the Committee members proposing that there were significant problems with the child protection system in Australia given the number of inquiries and Royal Commissions in this area.
There were also questions on child detention, especially in regards to unauthorised arrivals/refugees and what was seen to be a conflict of interest between the Minister’s capacity to determine who enters Australia and his role as guardian of the children. The Australian delegation made it quite clear that there was no intention to review this arrangement. The Committee queried what would happen to such children if their parents were not allowed to remain in Australia. The response made it clear that Australia would remove from Aus any child that was an unauthorised arrival.
The exploitation of children by business, especially multinationals was also raised. The Committee was interested in what steps Australia was taking in protecting children in such instances. Intersex matters were also queried with the Committee being interested in how such issues were being dealt with.
In his concluding comments the Committees leader stated that matters of violence, care and protection and the environment were matters that were very important and required urgent attention. It was also made clear that the Committee’s role and UN’s interest in these matters were to work together with the Australian government to better the lives of children and that this was a shared interest of all concerned.
As you can see from this very brief summary a large number of very significant issues were raised and responded to. It will be fascinating to see the Committee’s report with its concluding observations and recommendations when it is released. The recommendations will provide an important springboard for advocacy in this area.