Children’s commissioner says Australia isn’t doing enough to protect vulnerable kids
11 February 2020 at 4:37 pm
A new report says the mental health of Australian children is not being cared for properly
Child abuse and neglect has increased by more than 25 per cent in Australia, according to a new report that says a national plan for child wellbeing is desperately needed.
Australia’s first children’s commissioner, Megan Mitchell, has released an assessment of children’s rights that warns of a rise in mental health problems among Australian youth.
National data shows one in seven children between four and 17 were diagnosed with mental health disorders over a 12-month period, while suicide was the leading cause of death for children between five and 17 in 2017.
Mitchell said the mental health of Australian children was not being cared for properly.
“Not only do children require better access to mental health services, but they also need earlier intervention and higher quality care,” Mitchell said.
The report also found that from 2013 to 2017, there was a 27 per cent rise in reported substantiations of child abuse and neglect.
The last five years has seen the number of kids in out-of-home care increase by 18 per cent, while 17 per cent of children under 15 are living in poverty.
Mitchell’s report said a lack of government focus meant vulnerable kids were especially struggling, including Indigenous children, children with disability, and those who are LGBTI.
“There is a gap between the rights we have promised vulnerable children and how those rights are implemented. It is vital that we address the gap in order to better protect children’s rights,” Mitchell said.
“The increase in neglect and abuse of children is a particularly worrying trend, as is the increase in children living in out-of-home care. We must do better.”
The commissioner – whose seven-year term is set to end next month – has urged the federal government to develop a national plan for child wellbeing and appoint a cabinet-level minister for children’s issues.
This report was welcomed by national advocacy group Every Child. Co-chair Dr Kirsty Nowlan urged the government to act on the recommendations made by the commissioner.
“Governments view physical infrastructure – the building of bridges, roads, rail and ports – as a top priority [and] we say infrastructure to support children must be a top nation-building priority,” Nowlan said.
“A national plan and minister is a start but is still not enough. We need to turn the volume up on the wellbeing of children and young people in Australia and elevate their needs to a nation-building status.”