Aussie children’s concerns ignored
21 November 2019 at 8:22 am
Advocates meet to discuss how to tackle issues concerning Aussie kids
Despite being one of the first signatories of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, advocates say 30 years on, Australia is ignoring some of the biggest issues affecting children.
Human rights leaders, youth ambassadors, and academics gathered at Melbourne University on Wednesday to call for action on the “blindspots” that were impacting the rights of children around the globe.
The event was co-hosted by World Vision and featured representatives from the Australian Child Rights Taskforce and the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The blindspots were identified by the UN Committee back in September as action on climate change, youth, age and citizenship, mental health, and Indigenous children’s cultural rights.
Dr Ani Wierenga from the University of Melbourne told Pro Bono News that there had been a big shift in attitudes and understanding around issues that affected children, but Australia was yet to catch up.
“The science wasn’t there to show us that young people’s mental health and wellbeing was directly associated to the kind of environment they live in and the kind of communities that support them,” Wierenga said.
“Yet the way that we respond to this realisation is not very strong. We’ve got a service system model rather than a model that actually works with young people to address these issues.”
She also said that when children did speak out on issues they cared about such as climate change, adults did not respond well.
“When young people did raise concerns about that [climate change], we told them to go back to school,” she said.
CEO of World Vision Claire Rogers told Pro Bono News her key calls to action from the event included prohibiting the detention of asylum seekers, refugees and migrant children and raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years.
“Leaders must put children at the heart of every government initiative, and children must be included in the design and delivery of Australia’s overseas aid,” Rogers said.
Wierenga said it was vital for young people to be given a seat at the table when it came to decisions that would ultimately affect their future.
“We’re not talking about them as decision makers, and that’s a bit of a collision between the idea that these young people are articulate and savvy in asserting their own opinions and yet have so little voice in systems that have such big sway on what’s happening both now and in the future,” she said.
The comments come as a report published by UNICEF on Wednesday found that while 40 per cent of children surveyed were actively encouraged to raise issues that concerned them, just over a quarter of children and young people felt they were able to have sufficient impact on making changes that affect their lives.
Wierenga commended the NFP sector for “collectively keeping up the pressure” on fighting for systemic change that affected children.
“The NFP sector have a leadership role in how we address inequalities and incredibly complicated issues, so it’s really important they collectively keep up the pressure,” she said.
For Rogers, she said it was vital that any decision or program put out in the world considered the needs of children as well.
“Children are only one third of the global population, but half of the world’s 1.3 billion people living in poverty,” Rogers said.
“And children suffer long-term consequences from poverty in a different way from adults.”