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A Forum on Australia's Child Rights on World Human Rights Day

By - 20th November 2012


By Janani Muhunthan*:  Jan is the Youth Reporter for Australia's Child Rights Taskforce, and travelled to Geneva in June as an observer at the Australian Government's session at the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child.

Lick your fingers.

You heard me. Next time you order pizza, put down that knife and fork with its judging reflective surface, eat with your hands and lick your fingers afterwards - you know, the way your mother always told you not to.

Get into it. Get   mEsSy.

Slurp the last drops of the chocolate milkshake you think no-one sees you order at McDonalds every Thursday after work, briefcase in hand.

Slam a few doors.

Your secret habit of quoting Shrek in front of the mirror?  Take it public!

Write a love letter.

Be vulnerable.

Act silly.

Bring Nutella sandwiches to work, with pride.

Whatever works, whatever you need to do to rediscover your inner child, do it. Because remembering what it was like to be a child is the perfect way to understand why children are so innately vulnerable and why the promotion and advancement of child rights in Australia is so crucial. It’s the perfect way to understand why we’ve put together this special panel of inspiring change makers for a World Human Rights Day child rights forum - one we hope will become a landmark event for years to come.

In June, I had the privilege of witnessing, first hand, Australia’s review by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, tasked with assessing how we are faring when it comes to protecting and supporting our children and their futures.

I walked into the Palais Wilson, Geneva, on the first day of review and I saw three parallel rows of committee members, each with tattered cardboard boxes overflowing with papers, reports and research concerning the ‘Australian story’. Each member had come there on a voluntary basis, as proud global citizens eagerly awaiting news as to whether Australia had kept its promise to uphold the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They had big expectations, like eager parents, waiting for their child to come home from school and deliver their report card.

That report card had a few A’s (thanks to the government's impending appointment of a National Children’s Commissioner), a few B’s (on account of our reasonably successful anti-bullying campaigns), but on the whole, a large part suggested we were still failing our children. Failing. Imagine the shock and horror of finding red ink scrawled across your end of year assessment; because this is exactly the kind of disappointment every Australian should take on.

The UN’s assessment was founded, in part, on the following:-

  • the 51.5% increase of children in out-of-home care since 2005;
  • the UNICEF study showing that  10.9% of children were living below the poverty line;
  • that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care,  24 times more likely to be in juvenile detention, and 3 times more likely to suffer child mortality; and
  • the 428 children who,at the time of the assessment, were in immigration detention.  This, five years after our last review, when the UN advised that no children should be in immigration detention. 

The Committee condemned the controversial ‘Malaysia Swap’ but commended the Rudd government’s abolition of the previous government’s off-shore processing policy.  No mention was made by the government of its potential 180 degree maneuver  to move  the children currently in detention, off Australia’s shores, and onto Nauru and Manus islands. It is improbable that the UN committee would have approved.

On the 10th of December 2012, the #WeDidThis Event  will be a  call to educate and mobilise the troops so that together, we can launch a peaceful offensive against child rights abuses in Australia. Particularly, the event hopes to inspire the next generation of change makers, with education about the issues, and the skills they’ll need to successfully advocate change for children in Australia who so desperately need it. We hope you’ll join us.

Register at: 

Visit the facebook event page for updates, info and speaker details.

The Twitter hashtag is #wedidthis

*Jan Muhunthan is currently completing her final year of Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in International Studies at the University of Technology Sydney. Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, Jan spent much of her life bouncing around Australia and the world and says her upbringing has always inspired her to be proactive and assertive inside and outside her university environment. The UNICEF Australia Child Rights Taskforce is a coalition of over 100 organisations, co-convened by UNICEF and the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC).

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