Vulnerable Children Falling Behind in Australia, Report Warns
5 November 2018 at 5:44 pm
Australia is failing its most vulnerable children and not making enough progress to address youth inequality, a report by the nation’s peak child rights body says.
The Australian Child Rights Taskforce consulted 527 children and young people across the country for its Children’s Report, which was submitted to the United Nations Children’s Committee on Thursday.
The report found that children and young people in Australia faced growing intergenerational inequality, and said social and economic disadvantage were more acute for vulnerable groups.
UNICEF Australia senior policy advisor and co-author of the report Freyana Irani, said while many children in Australia enjoyed a good quality of life, the disparity for the children who didn’t was shocking.
“Almost 30 years after committing to minimum standards for our children by signing the UN Children’s Convention, improvements have only been incremental and isolated,” Irani said.
“We talk about a fair chance for our children, but one in five is starting school developmentally vulnerable, one in six is living in poverty, one in seven has experienced a mental disorder, and youth suicide is the leading and increasing cause of death among children and young people today.”
On APO: The Children's Report – in a national consultation with more than 500 children across Australia, each participant was invited to write a message to the UN on how to make Australia a better place for children and young people https://t.co/YoblvdfHmO #ChildrensReport
— APO (@APOorgau) November 5, 2018
UNICEF Australia CEO Tony Stuart said Indigenous children, children with disability, LGBTIQ children, asylum seeker and refugee children, children living in regional and remote areas and children in out-of-home care were most at risk.
“This report clearly demonstrates the extent to which our country is letting many of our children down – particularly our most vulnerable and disadvantaged – by failing to recognise and accommodate their obvious expertise in the development of policies and programs intended to support and shape their lives,” Stuart said.
During the consultation, a young transgender advocate in Perth described discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people as “a national pastime”.
Another young LGBTIQ+ advocate from Perth said she was terrified of non-acceptance.
“I’m bisexual, I’m binary and I’m terrified that maybe one day my family is going to find out about my gender identity,” she said in the report.
“I just live in a constant state of uncertainty, which is probably why I’m so stressed all the time.”
The report noted that over the last two decades, countless inquiries have highlighted chronic gaps within Australia’s child protection systems, as the number of children entering and remaining in out-of-home care has more than doubled.
Australia’s approach to youth justice was also criticised in the report, which said more than 14 inquiries since 2015 noted the nation’s inadequate youth justice facilities, where children have been subjected to practices that could amount to torture.
The report made 190 recommendations, including a national action plan for children, a youth-focused mental health strategy, and a federal minister for young people.
Irani said the government had no clear national agenda for children and young people, and that Australian children needed action and commitments.
“We now have enormous amounts of research, evidence and recommendations, but real action is the response that is missing,” she said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing issues with mental health, please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or headspace on 1800 650 890.