Five challenges facing children and young people
24 August 2020 at 5:10 pm
To mark the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children and young people from Australia and the Pacific met to identify key areas of concern for governments and policy makers to address. Mercy Chipo Jumo shares their top five issues.
World Vision Australia recently published a statement by children and young people who met to reflect on the status of children’s rights in Australia and the Pacific, 30 years after the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was established.
All world governments except one have ratified the convention, making it the most popular UN treaty. However, while some progress has been made, governments’ enthusiasm has not necessarily translated into action. More must be done to ensure that children, particularly the most vulnerable, are protected, provided for and supported to participate in the lives of their communities.
The Child and Youth Statement identifies COVID-19, climate change, Indigenous children’s rights, citizenship and mental health as issues of concern to children and young people. In the statement children and youth position themselves as agents for change. They consider themselves part of the solution and want a smart partnership with adults and policy makers to help resolve the problems facing society.
COVID-19 has brought uncertainty into the lives of children and young people. School has gone online, and social distancing is the new normal. Beth, a year 12 student, speaks to the challenges of writing final year exams from home and is grateful that she enjoys easy access to the internet and support that some students in and outside Australia do not have.
Indigenous young people call out racism and their overrepresentation in negative statistics in comparison to other ethnicities. They demand respect for their language, culture and history, and call for a refreshed and balanced school curriculum.
Concern over rising oceans around Pacific Island countries and burning fires in Australia are cited as indicators for climate change and need for urgent climate action.
The children and young people say they are, and want to be, part of the solution to problems they identified. They want their lived experiences and opinions to be considered in policy discussions. Children and young people are citizens, rights holders and consumers of services who are often left out of key decision-making processes. It is important for children and youth to be consulted, to be heard, and for their opinions to inform policy decisions.
If children’s rights and wellbeing are to be realised, and the sustainable development goals (SDGs) are to be achieved, children and young people must not be left behind.
As Kaycee from Vanuatu aptly says in the Child and Youth Statement: “Policymakers must listen to us. They should involve us and value the ideas, concerns, and hopes of children and young people.”
The CRC30 conference was convened by World Vision Australia, the University of Melbourne, the Child Rights Taskforce and the Australian Human Rights Commission. The National Children’s Commissioner launched Children’s Rights in Australia: A scorecard at the conference.