NFPs Welcome National Children’s Commissioner
25 February 2013 at 4:33 pm
Not for Profit groups around Australia have welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of the nation’s first Children’s Commissioner.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the announcement that the New South Wales Children’s Commissioner and former ACOSS director Megan Mitchell will take on the role for a period of five years, commencing March 25.
The decision comes following the introduction of the legislation to federal parliament in May last year.
In a statement, Gillard said that Mitchell was a “strong voice” for vulnerable children in her current role as New South Wales Commissioner for Children and Young People.
“She will bring that experience to the national stage,” the statement said.
United Nations children’s arm, UNICEF Australia, welcomed the appointment of Mitchell, hailing the position as “an opportunity to bring a structured approach to the challenges that face the nation’s children”.
UNICEF Australia chief executive Dr Norman Gillespie said a National Children’s Commissioner was a key recommendation to the Federal Government by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
“Australia is a great place for most of its children, yet we are seeing more children, particularly those unable to bridge the growing income disparity and those from minority groups, who are not getting the same opportunities for a fair start in life,” Dr Gillespie said.
“We urge the Commissioner Mitchell to raise the voice of these children to address the inequity that exists today in Australian society,” Dr Gillespie said.
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie said that Mitchell’s appointment was a “major step forward” in ensuring that children across the country are given every opportunity to lead healthy lives in the crucial stage of their development.
“The announcement fulfils a major objective under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, which is the nation’s first-ever roadmap to deal with child abuse and neglect and to promote the wellbeing of our children,” Dr Goldie said.
"It is vital we have a Commissioner focused on championing the aspirations, needs and interests of children and young people. ACOSS, and the entire community sector look forward to working closely with Megan Mitchell and the new office.”
UnitingCare Australia said that Mitchell's appointment was a "significant step" towards a brighter future for some of Australia’s most vulnerable children.
“The appointment will give a stronger voice to all young people, but particularly to the most vulnerable and promises to raise the profile of the rights and well-being of children and young people in Australia,” UnitingCare Australia national director Lin Hatfield Dodds said.
“This national role has the opportunity to drive systemic reform and build relationships to ensure a consistent approach to issues affecting children and young people.
“This appointment is a welcome culmination of a significant period of consultation and decades of advocacy led by the non-government sector."
Chief executive of the Foundation for Young Australians, Jan Owen AM, congratulated Mitchell on her new role.
"FYA believes strongly in listening to and amplifying the voice of young people," Owen said. "We are delighted that Ms Mitchell has been appointed to do just that."
The peak body for Australian families and children, Families Australia, also welcomed the announcement.
“This appointment represents a major step forward in promoting the wellbeing and safety of Australia’s children and young people,” Families Australia chief executive Brian Babington said.
“It fulfils a major objective under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, the nation’s first-ever roadmap to tackle child abuse and neglect and to promote children’s wellbeing.
‘The National Children’s Commissioner will have a vitally important role in highlighting the aspirations, needs and interests of children and young people, standing up when things go wrong, and championing what works well for children and young people.”
The government said that the National Children’s Commissioner will sit within the Australian Human Rights Commission, Australia’s national independent statutory body dealing with human rights.
“The Commissioner will promote public discussion and awareness of issues affecting children; conduct research and education programs; consult directly with children and representative organisations; and examine Commonwealth legislation, policies and programs that relate to children’s human rights,” the government said.