I want children’s participation to become the norm – Mitchell honoured at end of term
Staff at the Australian Human Rights Commission have paid tribute to the work of Megan Mitchell, who finished her seven-year term as Australia’s inaugural National Children’s Commissioner this week.
In her role as Australia’s inaugural National Children’s Commissioner Ms Mitchell gained a reputation as a powerful advocate for the rights of children, consistently seeking out their direct views, and making child safety the centre of everything she did within her role.
In March 2013, Ms Mitchell commenced in the bringing with her experience as the former New South Wales Commissioner for Children and Young People, as CEO of the Australian Council of Social Services, and roles in community and family services in NSW and the ACT.
These roles gave Ms Mitchell a valuable understanding of working with vulnerable children and children from all backgrounds, and practical experience in child protection, juvenile justice, disabilities, foster and kinship care, and early intervention and prevention services.
On her first day as National Children’s Commissioner, Ms Mitchell said she wanted, “the views of our youngest citizens, who make up a quarter of our population to be sought, heard and taken up by adults in our community. I want children’s participation to become the norm.”
A highlight from her time as Commissioner, her colleagues said, was the development of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations which were endorsed by COAG in February 2019.
Ms Mitchell also produced landmark reports on suicide and self-harm, family violence, and the implications of OPCAT in custodial detention, all of which have shaped policy and advocacy in promoting the rights of Australian children.
Her final report, In Their Own Right: Children’s Rights In Australia, followed Australia’s appearance before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in September 2019.
In Their Own Right covers the work Ms Mitchell has undertaken over the past seven years, and makes recommendations to improve the wellbeing of all Australian children and honour Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“The report is a very significant piece of work, and we commend it to anyone who has not yet had a chance to read it. It covers the rights that all children need to thrive, including having a home and family, access to a quality education and healthcare, being safe from harm, and having a voice of their own” her coworkers said.
In Their Own Right recognises that while most children in Australia live in a safe and healthy environment, there are some groups of children whose rights are not adequately protected.
Those groups include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children with disability, and lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children. More needs to be done to protect the rights of these children to improve their wellbeing and allow them to thrive, they added.
“The children and young people of Australia have been extraordinarily fortunate to have an advocate like Megan in their corner for the past seven years, and we have been lucky to have her as our colleague” they said in closing, thanking Ms Mitchell for her dedicated service and wishing her all the very best for the future.