The recent violent arrest of an Indigenous youth in Sydney, together with the recent Royal Commission into the Detention and Protection of Young People, the treatment of refugee children, the high rate of children living in poverty and disparity in school performance, and the campaign to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility are highlighting systemic issues in the way young people in Australia are treated, and the lack of regard for children’s rights.

A new program developed by UNSW’s Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) and Youth Law Australia (YLA) with Dr Noam Peleg is seeking to address this challenge.

2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the landmark children’s treaty, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It also coincided with Australia’s appearance before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for our combined 5th and 6th periodic review and the release of a new CRC General Comment on children’s rights in juvenile justice.

The reporting process provides the opportunity for engagement between government and civil society on the current status of children’s rights within Australia and ways to progress these.

DTP and YLA have been piloting a new program responding to the opportunity of the reporting process to build knowledge and understanding of the CRC, and to foster dialogue on its implementation and monitoring. The program is bringing together representatives from government and civil society in a series of workshops around the country.

Developed with guidance from UNSW Law’s Dr Peleg and in partnership with Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, the first program was held at UNSW, with subsequent workshops in Darwin (with Danila Dilba Health Service) in July 2019 and in Brisbane in February 2020. Funding was provided by the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department. Trainers, including National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell and Monash University’s Faith Gordon were generous in donating their time to teach on the program.

“Children in Australia, especially Indigenous children and other marginalised groups, see their rights violated almost on a daily basis. One reason for this is a lack of knowledge about the principle of international children's rights law and its practical effect,” says Dr Peleg. “Our workshops showed time and again that civil society and civil servants who work with and for children on a daily basis are keen to learn new best practices of how to develop and implement child-friendly policies.” 

The two-day intensive workshops provide an opportunity for frank, open discussions between the different stakeholders. What has become apparent is not only the lack of knowledge within State and Territory governments of the Convention, its four Guiding Principles, and incorporating a human rights-based approach to policy and practice, but the thirst for knowledge and training in this area.

“I came to the training with the realisation that I work with children but I have never been trained on children’s human rights,” one participant wrote in their program evaluation. “For me this training is another (very relevant and important) tool to improve my work. I plan to use the human rights lenses from now on.”

“My work in advocating for youth and working in remote communities will have improved with this information. It gives me a backbone to what I’ll be teaching and working towards,” responded another.

Workshop participants expressed a keen interest in having more training not only on the CRC, but also on its intersection with other human rights treaties Australia has ratified, particularly the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.

Planning for further workshops in Perth and Sydney was underway before COVID-19 hit. It is hoped that with restrictions easing, these will be able to run in the latter half of the year.

DTP and YLA are both affiliated centres of UNSW Law. Both are charities rely on donations to survive.  Please give generously if you can.

DTP Donations - https://www.dtp.unsw.edu.au/donations

YLA Donations - https://yla.org.au/donate/

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Noam Peleg