National Children’s Commissioner releases scorecard assessing children’s rights
Australia’s National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell released a scorecard yesterday assessing outcomes for children rights across Australia.
One of the scorecard’s most significant pieces of commentary is that there is no good rationale for detaining children under the age of 14, in any form of detention.
“All Australian governments need to recommit to the principle of child detention as a measure of last resort, because placing children behind bars amounts to taking away their childhood and disrupting their healthy development,” Commissioner Mitchell said.
She made explicit mention of the age of criminal responsibility in Australia being ten, which is low compared to many other countries. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has recommended all countries increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years.
“While most Australian children live in safe, healthy environments and do well, there are some groups whose rights are not well protected, which impacts negatively on their wellbeing and ability to thrive. This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children with disability, children in care, children in rural and remote locations, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and LGBTI children,” Commissioner Mitchell added.
The report also commented on the “concerning” mental health outcomes for Australian children, with suicide the leading cause of death for children aged 5–17 in 2017, and 35,997 hospitalisations for intentional self-harm in the ten years to 2017.
“There is a national shortage of mental health services and more needs to be done to care for the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people and much earlier in their lives,” Commissioner Mitchell noted.
Calling on the Federal Government to develop a National Plan for Child Wellbeing and to appoint a Cabinet level Minister with responsibility for driving children’s issues at the national level, the scorecard also addressed children’s rights in relation to immigration detention and the impact of climate change on children’s rights, health and an adequate standard of living.
Mikiko Otani, a member of the UN CRC committee, presented the scorecard at a conference at Melbourne University yesterday. The conference was held to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the UN CRC.