As the United Nations’ children’s agency, a core part of UNICEF’s work is making sure that governments around the world protect children’s rights – that is, that they meet their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (The Children’s Convention).

The Australian Government signed on to the Children’s Convention in 1990. Almost 30 years later, it is still the case that many children in Australia are exposed to harm or are unable to access the support and assistance they need to develop to their full potential and have a fair chance in life.

The Children’s Convention recognises that every child has the right to have their views heard and considered when decisions are made that affect them. Every child has valuable insights. This philosophy underpins our work in compiling The Children’s Report.

 

Why is UNICEF Australia compiling The Children’s Report?


UNICEF Australia leads a group of over 100 child-focused organisations and experts, called the Australian Child Rights Taskforce (The Taskforce).

Every five or six years, the Taskforce reports to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN Committee) about Australia’s progress in improving lives and outcomes for our children and young people, and the areas where we need to do better. This is The Children’s Report.

The Taskforce also makes practical and timely recommendations to the Australian Government about how to improve the protection of child rights in Australia.
 
 

How is UNICEF Australia and the Taskforce conducting its research for The Children’s Report?

 
UNICEF Australia is currently travelling across the country to hear directly from children and young people about the issues that matter to them. Our national consultation is also an effort to understand their varied and often complicated lives. We will hear their ideas, concerns and perspectives about the changes and improvements needed to ensure that all children and young people in Australia can reach their full potential.
 
Once this information is compiled into The Children’s Report, it will be sent to the UN Committee in November 2018. 

  1. What is the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child?
  2. What is the UN Committee’s function in relation to The Children’s Report?
  3. When did Australia last report to the UN Committee?
  4. How do NGOs engage with the UN Committee?
 

1. What is the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child?

 
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is the body of 18 independent experts that meets regularly in Geneva. It monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by countries around the world.
 
It also monitors implementation of two Optional Protocols to the Children’s Convention. The first is on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC). The second, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC). On 19 December 2011, the UN General Assembly approved a third Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, which allows individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights. 

The third Optional Protocol entered into force in April 2014, However Australia has not yet signed on, meaning that it is not available for children in Australia.
 


2. What is the UN Committee’s function in relation to The Children’s Report?


All countries who have signed the Children’s Convention must submit regular reports to the UN Committee on the progress they have made in implementing children’s rights. States must submit an initial report two years after acceding to the Children’s Convention and then periodic reports every five years.
 
The UN Committee examines the reports submitted for each country and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “Concluding Observations”.
 


3. When did the Australian Government last report to the UN Committee?

 
Australia last appeared before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2012. The last reporting cycle resulted in the UN Committee adopting Australia’s Concluding Observations for the Children’s Convention, Concluding Observations for OPSC, and Concluding Observations for OPAC in June 2012.
 
Australia submitted its most recent (combined fifth and sixth) report under the Children’s Convention, second reports under OPSC and OPAC with Appendices, on 15 January 2018.
 


4. How do NGOs engage with the UN Committee?


When reviewing Australia’s record on children’s rights, the UN Committee can look at any information it considers important.
 
There are three key reports that are sent to the committee from Australia:
  • the Australian Government’s report
  • the report from the national human rights institution (Australian Human Rights Commission), and
  • the civil society report, also known as the ‘alternative’ report (the Taskforce’s report). 
The ‘alternative’ report, which generally provides an alternative view about the government’s performance on children’s rights. 

In 2011, the Taskforce prepared an alternative report, Listen to Children: Child Rights NGO Report Australia.
 
In November 2018, The Children’s Report will be the alternative report submitted by the NGO sector in Australia for the current reporting cycle.