Australia's youngest generation the most vulnerable. New report calls for Governments to set a clear national agenda for children

SYDNEY, 10 June 2016 – A new report from the Australian Child Rights Taskforce, led by UNICEF Australia and the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, highlights that despite two decades of consecutive economic growth, one in six children in Australia still lives below the poverty line and more than 70,000 received assistance from specialist homelessness services, with no view of a long term solution.   
 
The report marks 25 years since Australia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, agreeing to a set of standards and obligations for all children.  The report considers the progress – and lack thereof - for children across a number of key social policy areas including family life, education and care, justice and health, and what this has meant for children. While considerable progress has been made in protecting child rights in Australia, there are a number of entrenched challenges that still need to be addressed.
 
“This report confirms that discrimination is persistent for some children growing up in Australia and that their lives are not getting any easier,” said Adrian Graham, Chief Executive Officer, UNICEF Australia. 
 
The report specifically identifies that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex (LGBTI) children, children from rural areas, children with disabilities and children from migrant backgrounds are still more likely to experience poverty, discrimination, social exclusion and disadvantage.
 
“Children living in poverty have less access to both primary and specialist health services than the general population, higher levels of contact with the criminal justice system and greater exposure to domestic violence. Children living in poverty are also more likely to be removed from their families and placed into care arrangements.”
 
“Australia is not the lucky country for many children. The well-being of children should be shaped by sound leadership and policy choices. The Australian Child Rights Progress Report is a clear reminder that Australia must place equity at the heart of our agenda for children, with the idea that no child should be left behind.  The Taskforce calls on the Australian Government to adopt a comprehensive national policy agenda for children that include measures to ensure that all children growing up in Australia have a decent quality of life,” said Mr. Graham.
 
Key report findings include:
 
Learning and Development
  • In Australia, there is a 20 per cent gap between the highest and lowest socioeconomic status quartiles in attainment of Year 12.
  • Only 74 per cent of 20 to 24-year olds from low socioeconomic backgrounds complete Year 12 or equivalent, compared with 94 per cent of 20 to 24-year olds from high socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • School retention rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students remain considerably lower than non-indigenous school students.
  • 69.9per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are in pre-school, compared with 88.7 per cent of non-Indigenous children. 
Inequality and Child Poverty in Australia
  • By OECD measures 603,000 children in Australia living below the poverty line or 1 in 6 Australian children, nearly 18 per cent (ACOSS). More than a third of these children are from single headed households.
  • 19.3 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are living in poverty, compared to 12.4 per cent of non- indigenous children (ACOSS).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for 25 per cent of the homeless population, while making up just 2.5 per cent of the general population.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 3 per cent of the Australian population, yet they made up 23 per cent of those accessing specialist homelessness services in 2014–15. 
Family and Care
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 9.2 times more likely to be in out of home care than non-Indigenous children.
  • Aboriginal Children make up 5.5 per cent of all Australian children, yet comprise 35 per cent of the care population.
  • In 1990 there were 3 per 1,000 children in out of home care. In 2014 this had grown to 8.1 per 1,000 children.
  • In 1991, of the children placed in out of home care, 16 per cent were in institutional care, compared to 6 per cent in 2014.
  • 75 per cent of the children in residential care who have been subject to sexual abuse are female. 
Justice
  • The level of over-representation of Indigenous people aged 10 – 17 years in detention increased from 19 times the rate of non-Indigenous young people in 2011 to 26 times in 2015.
  • Young people who have been homeless have a mental (79.9 per cent) or physical (61.2 per cent) disability, - mental disability at 79.9% and 61.2% for physical disability. This figure is 55.6 per cent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
  • 12 times as many children under 18 years of age used the email legal advice service between 2010 – 2014, rather than traditional legal services.
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Report link: Download the full report at www.unicef.org.au/crc25
The report has been researched and compiled with contributions by more than 30 organisations, academics, experts and young people working for the rights of children and young people.
 
Note to editors: Report launch event
The Report will be launched this Friday 10 June, 12.30pm – 1.30pm at the Australian Human Rights Commission in Sydney and includes speeches from Megan Mitchell, the National Children’s Commissioner and Judge Alistair Nicholson, former Chief Justice of the Australian Family Court and currently Chair of Children’s Rights International. If you would like to attend the launch, please contact Nicole Mackey on 0403 964 334.
 
For further information and interviews, please contact:
Nicole Mackey, UNICEF Australia, 0403 964 334, nmackey@unicef.org.au
 
About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org.au 

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About the Taskforce
The Australian Child Rights Progress Report has been issued by the Australian Child Rights Taskforce. The Taskforce is the peak body for child rights in Australia. It is co-convened by UNICEF Australia and the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre and is made up of more than 100 organisations advocating for the rights of Australia’s children.