SYDNEY, Thursday 19 July 2018:
UNICEF Australia has started a national conversation with children across the country – including the most excluded, disadvantaged and isolated children - about the important things that affect their everyday lives. The research is being conducted on behalf of the Australian Child Rights Taskforce of NGOs for the Children’s Report, which will be provided to the United Nations Children’s Committee later this year.
“The Children’s Report is about so much more than simply assessing Australia’s performance against its responsibilities under the UN Children’s Convention,” said UNICEF Australia’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, Amy Lamoin.
“When it comes to policies, programs and initiatives that affect them, children have the lived experience of these approaches in action, so are the most expertly poised to assess strengths and shortcomings, what works and what doesn’t – the positive and negative aspects of the experience. They can provide the real world test to the assumptions and decisions we make on their behalf.”
Australia signed the UN Children’s Convention almost thirty years ago in 1990. UNICEF Australia leads the assessment of the government’s performance against it every five years, reporting its findings to the UN.
“For the most part, children in Australia enjoy access to services, a decent standard of living, and positive opportunities to grow and develop,” said Ms Lamoin. “However, not all groups of children in Australia have a fair chance in life, and UNICEF Australia, like many Australians, is concerned about increasing rates of inequality. We also know that we haven’t made sufficient progress over the past thirty years for our most vulnerable children – and we are seeing that transition into low outcomes in their adulthoods.”
She pointed to the findings of the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, repetitive evidence that state and territory child protection systems are coming apart at the edges, the poor international ranking of Australia’s education system, the incidence of family violence, the high levels (approximately 40 per cent) of youth unemployment, treatment of refugee children, the fact that one in six children in our country live below the poverty line, and the consistently poor and worsening outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children across every indicator.
“The bottom line in all these concerning scenarios for children in our country is that children have not been given the opportunity to be heard - they have very often not been afforded the basic respect of being listened to - they have not been allowed to participate in shaping the world we create for them,” she said.
“Every five years, for almost 30 years, Australian civil society groups has been having the same conversation, and the wealth of evidence we have at our disposal today makes it clear we have not been learning or taking action.”
Ms Lamoin pointed to one simple example, from UNICEF’s global field experience, of a specially built school in Cambodia which children refused to attend. When children were finally consulted, they pointed out that the toilets didn’t have doors, so it was too uncomfortable and lacking in privacy for them to attend.
“Because children understand risk and the ways they are affected, they can therefore contribute solutions,” she said. “We need to truly commit to encouraging children’s participation in the approaches we design that impact upon them. We need to develop a national agenda for children that recognises them as critical stakeholders. And that is what our national consultations, which will capture the diverse experiences of children across our country, aim to begin. The Children’s report is our national ‘reality check’.”
For more information about The Children’s report and its progress, visit www.unicef.org.au/our-work/unicef-in-australia/childrens-report
For more information, please contact:
Brinsley Marlay, UNICEF Australia, 0403 604 182, [email protected]