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Kids are our future

By Suzanne Dvorak and Carolyn Hardy - posted Friday, 20 November 2009

We all know kids are our future. But what kind of world are we creating for our children and what kind of life do we offer them? In some countries children are forced to fight as soldiers or toil in mines and factories; others are victims of violence and abuse; and globally more than 100 million children don’t get to go to school.

Twenty years ago world leaders endorsed a new convention in the United Nations in an attempt to ensure children everywhere got the best opportunity in life regardless of where they lived, their race or gender. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was subsequently signed by every country in the United Nations. It was aimed at ensuring children got to enjoy some basic rights - such as the right to go to school, to have access to shelter and adequate food but also to be able to play and have their opinions heard and respected.

So now two decades later is life any better for our children, both here in Australia and around the world?


There has been significant progress: today 10,000 less children die a day of preventable diseases than they did in 1990. But there are also still enormous challenges. And while children in Australia fare better than those in many other parts of the world there are still significant issues that need to be tackled here at home.

Australia took the important step of ratifying the convention nearly 19 years ago, yet children’s rights in this country remain paradoxically low on the national agenda.

That an estimated 1,530 Australian children died as a result of abuse or neglect in 2006, crammed conditions in juvenile detention forced some Australian children into adult facilities and nearly half of Australia’s 100,000 homeless people are younger than 25 highlight the need for greater protection of children’s rights in Australia.

Indigenous children are particularly at risk given they are six times more likely to be involved with the statutory child protection system than non-Indigenous children. And figures released this month reveal that Indigenous youths are almost 30 times more likely to be detained than non-Indigenous youth.

Many asylum-seeker children are forced to live in closed immigration detention facilities - about two-thirds of the 82 asylum-seeker children on Christmas Island live in low-security camps in claustrophobic conditions that compromise their health and wellbeing, according to an Australian Human Rights Commission report.

Similarly, the lack of political will to take responsibility for the asylum-seeker children aboard the Oceania Viking stranded at an Indonesian port demonstrates serious cracks in the Federal Government’s commitment to children’s rights.


These are glaring violations of children’s right to protection and demonstrate the failure of child protection policies across the country to prevent the injury, abuse and death of thousands of Australian children.

But their rights are undermined in other ways.

Inadequate access to education for children in remote regions, for those with disabilities and from culturally diverse backgrounds, limited representation of children’s views in political and legal debates, low youth wages and restrictions on Indigenous and homeless young people using public spaces are breaches of children’s rights.

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About the Authors

Suzanne Dvorak is CEO of Save the Children in Australia.

Carolyn Hardy is Chief Executive of UNICEF Australia.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Suzanne Dvorak
All articles by Carolyn Hardy

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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