Children's rights pressure mounts
Children's rights in Australia are expected to be reviewed by the UN mid-year. Photo: John Donegan
A FEDERAL government move to establish a national children's commissioner has added pressure on the Baillieu government to beef up children's rights in a similar way at the state level.
The recent Cummins report on child welfare in Victoria recommended that the role currently fulfilled by Child Safety Commissioner Bernie Geary be replaced by a new state-based Commission for Children and Young People.
The proposed independent commission would have more powers and include a chairman and other commissioners, with one office bearer taking specific responsibility for vulnerable Aboriginal children.
Ben Schokman, of the Human Rights Law Centre, said despite the welcome move to establish a national children's commissioner, complementary state action was required ''to fill the gaps''.
''More needs to be done to listen and advocate for the rights of children and young people at the state level as recognised by the Cummins inquiry,'' he said.
At the weekend, federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon sketched out plans to create a position of national children commissioner ''to ensure the voices of children and young people are heard in the development of Commonwealth polices and programs''.
The federal move comes as preparations are under way to appear mid-year before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which will review children's rights in Australia.
As a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Australia is periodically reviewed by an international committee of experts.
Mr Schokman said indigenous children's welfare would come under scrutiny at the Geneva meeting. On key indicators - from mortality to high school retention and involvement in the child protection and juvenile justice systems - Aboriginal children do much worse than other children.