National Plan for Child Wellbeing a core recommendation from Mitchell’s final report
Australia’s first Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, launched her final report yesterday, one of the most comprehensive assessments of children’s rights ever produced in Australia.
Ms Mitchell, who will cease in the role 24 March 2020, was clear in her reporting, noting that the mental health of children and young people in Australia is not being sufficiently cared for, and that governments must do more to ensure children’s wellbeing.
Better access is only one piece of the puzzle, she noted, calling also for early intervention and higher quality care. One way to achieve this is through the development of a National Plan for Child Wellbeing, and the appointment of a Cabinet-level Minister with responsibility for children’s issues at the national level.
One in seven children aged between four and 17 years of age were diagnosed with a mental health issue in a 12 month period, Ms Mitchell noted, expressing concern about increasing rates of suicide and self harm.
Other urgent concerns highlighted in the report include that, from 2013 to 2017 there was a 27 per cent increase in reported substantiations of child abuse and neglect. The number of children in out-of-home care has increased by 18 per cent over the last five years. Also, approximately 17 per cent of children under the age of 15 live in poverty.
“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,” Ms Mitchell said, adding that her report clearly shows that children in vulnerable situations suffer most through a lack of government focus. This includes Indigenous children, children with a disability, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and LGBTI children.
“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,” she added.
Attorney General Christian Porter tabled the report in Parliament on Thursday, 6 February.
The report is a culmination of the work Commissioner Mitchel has done throughout her seven-year term. Professor John Tobin, from the University of Melbourne’s Law School, will launch the report at the Human Rights Commission in Sydney yesterday.
To access the report, please see here.