AUSTRALIA is not making sufficient progress in policies and programs to support children, particularly disadvantaged children in our country. We have regressed in areas of critical importance and systems designed to protect children are in crisis.
These are the overarching findings of The Children’s Report, being released today by the Australian Child Rights Taskforce at the same time it is submitted to the United Nations Children’s Committee.
“With over five million children in Australia, we should be ensuring that the decisions we make, which impact on the lives of children and young people now and in the future, are made with them in mind and include processes for them to have their say as citizens and significant stakeholders,” said Tony Stuart, CEO of UNICEF Australia.
“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 recognize and accommodate their obvious expertise in the development of policies and programs intended to support and shape their lives.”
Senior Policy Advisor, co-researcher and co-author of The Children’s Report, Freyana Irani, said, “While many children in Australia enjoy a good quality of life, for the ones that don’t, the extent of the disparity is shocking. Almost 30 years after committing to minimum standards for our children by signing the UN Children’s Convention, improvements have been only incremental and isolated.”
Mr Stuart said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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 are particularly being left behind.
Ms 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.”
She said that Australia’s systems are fractured and failing our children. Australia’s academic performance has continued on a consistent downward trend in all school sectors since 2000. According to UNICEF’s Report Card 15, released yesterday, Australia ranks in the bottom third of OECD countries on educational equality across early, primary and secondary education.
Similarly, over the last two decades, countless inquiries have highlighted the overwhelming need, chronic gaps within Australia’s child protection systems. Over the same time, the number of children entering and remaining in out-of-home care has more than doubled. Since 2015, more than 14 inquiries have condemned Australia’s inadequate youth justice facilities, where children have been subject to practices that may amount to torture, cruel and inhuman treatment. And Australia’s criminal justice system continues to imprison children as young as ten.
“We now have enormous amounts of research, evidence and recommendations, but real action is the response that is missing,” Ms Irani said. “When was the last time a government had a big idea for children in Australia? We have no clear national agenda for children and young people in Australia, even though The Children’s Report tells us that children in Australia are feeling ‘invisible’, ‘irrelevant’, and ‘worthless’.”
Mr Stuart and Ms Irani said that Australia’s children need action and commitments, including a national plan for children, a national children and families strategy, a Minister for Children and a funded youth peak body.
The Children’s Report, containing the voices of children and findings from consultations with 527 children and young people in 30 remote, regional and urban locations across Australia, along with 190 recommendations, is released by UNICEF Australia Chair, Ann Sherry, at the National Press Club today.
Story Source: UNICEF Australia