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By UNICEF Australia
13 May 2016

Many children in Australia enjoy the benefits of good economic conditions and the protections of a democratic society. 

However, that is not the case for a significant number of children. As UNICEF’s Report Card 13 recently highlighted, many children in Australia are falling behind in key indicators relating to education and health. In Queensland in particular, recent years have also seen a concerning upward trend of children in criminal detention, in addition to the continued treatment of children who are 17 years old as adults within the criminal justice system.

One way that the situation of children in Queensland could be improved is through strengthening the legislative human rights framework of that state.

We know that human rights are important to Australians, particularly rights to an adequate standard of living (including housing), education and healthcare.[1] We also know through the work of the UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors, that rights are important to children and young people. 

A human rights act has been introduced in Victoria and the ACT, and now the Queensland Parliament is conducting a human rights inquiry to consider whether the State should also adopt a human rights act.

Students visit the Museum of Australian Democracy in the ACT, where human rights act already exists to protect children
Students visit the Museum of Australian Democracy in the ACT, where human rights act already exists to protect children

We have seen how a human rights act has helped protect and promote the rights of children in the following ways:

  • helped a boy with a learning disability to access the supports required for him to stay in school;
  • helped protect the right to housing of a young woman and her three younger siblings after the death of her father and incarceration of her mother;
  • helped siblings stay together, receive the care of their family and be connected to culture; and
  • effectively protected a girl who experienced abuse from giving evidence against the alleged perpetrators. 

Through these ways and more, children in Queensland could benefit from a human rights act. That is why UNICEF Australia supports a human rights act for Queensland.

UNICEF Australia has prepared a full submission to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee of the Queensland Parliament.

[1] National Human Rights Consultation Committee, National Human Rights Consultation Report, Commonwealth of Australia (September 2009), pp. 78-82.