Not for Profits Welcome Establishment of National Children’s Commissioner
30 April 2012 at 12:36 pm
A coalition of Australia’s leading children and youth focused organisations has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of the establishment of a National Children’s Commissioner.
The Attorney-General Nicola Roxon made the announcement at the weekend and says that the Commissioner will “ensure the voices of children and young people are heard in the development of Commonwealth policies and programs”.
The Government said that the Children’s Commissioner will sit within the Australian Human Rights Commission and is expected to be in place by the end of the year.
The coalition of organisations, which includes the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, Save the Children and UNICEF, says it “cautiously welcomes” the announcement as an important further step in establishing more robust accountability in government policy and practice for children.
James McDougall, Director of Advocacy for Save the Children said that the need for national policy for children that focuses on delivering measurable outcomes is at least 20 years overdue.
“This is an important further step in delivering greater accountability and driving efforts to establish a level playing field for Australia’s most disadvantaged children,” McDougall said.
Having witnessed the impact of poor policy and planning for children, the coalition says that NGOs have long advocated the need for greater accountability of government.
However the coalition has expressed concerns about the level of resources to be provided for the role.
Executive Director of AYAC Andrew Cummings said that a National Commissioner for Children and Young People can bring attention to issues of neglect, abuse and discrimination, but only if given the appropriate resources.
“There are too many instances where lack of a coordinated response by governments and their departments allow children and young people to suffer. Youth homelessness and the health and education of indigenous young people are two obvious examples,” Cummings said.
“A Commissioner must have the resources and support of governments to monitor and review these and other complex areas.”
Meanwhile, UnitingCare Australia says that the introduction of a National Children’s Commissioner was “long overdue” and will raise the profile of the rights of children and young people in Australia.
“The Office of the National Children’s Commissioner must also complement the work of existing institutions, including The Australian Human Rights Commission, Public Advocates and Ombudsman schemes, that are responsible for promoting and protecting the rights of all citizens, including children and young people,” UnitingCare National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds said.
“This is not a substitute for Government responsibilities, but a mechanism to help children and young people, the broader community and government and public agencies further understand their rights, entitlements and responsibilities.
The children’s coalition, which says it has been working with a wider group of over 40 NGOs to ensure that the government is adequately briefed on the needs and features of the required role, has released an NGO position paper reportedly used to brief the government.
The group has also called for wider support for children from the political process.
“We need bipartisan support for the role to ensure that the outcomes for children are effective,” UNICEF chief executive Dr Norman Gillespie said.
“The Commissioner must have guaranteed independence from Government and distance from the political process.
“We call on all politicians to support a properly resourced Commission,” Gillespie said.
Lin Hatfield Dodds said UnitingCare expects that the work of the Commissioner’s office will be fully funded in the Federal Budget and that “allowances will be made for increased funding as the role becomes established over time”.
The government said that funding for the establishment of the Children’s Commissioner will be fully offset from savings across the Attorney-General’s and the Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs portfolios.
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