The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by world leaders 30 years ago. It has become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.
Worldwide, over the last 30 years, the experience of children has significantly changed. Improvements have been seen in children’s access to clean drinking water and schooling, and deaths of children under 5 years of age have halved since 1990.
Australia ratified the treaty in 1990.
Children’s rights are listed in this Convention because of their vulnerability and their total dependance on adults, and because their views are rarely heard in political processes. As a signatory to the Convention, the Australian Government has made a commitment to giving children and young people the help they need to participate in the important decisions that affect them. As a result, the participation of children is a requirement and necessary part of child protection practice.
Children have the right …
The Charter of Rights embedded in the Child Protection Act 1999, section 74, Schedule 1 describes the core rights of every child who is subject to the custody or guardianship of Child Safety.
… to be informed
Provide children with information about permanency in a way that is easy, clear and age-appropriate. When speaking with a child about permanency, speak about the relational, physical and legal dimensions of permanency. For children to be able to participate in decision making in a meaningful way, they must be informed as much as possible. Information can be provided to children in different ways, and by different people, to help them understand.
… to be heard
Involve children in decision making. Find ways for individual children to express their views and participate meaningfully in decisions that affect their lives. When children are heard and involved in planning for their safety and wellbeing, it increases their confidence and provides them with life skills in decision making.
Use a range of skills and tools to ensure children’s views are heard. Relationship building, creative engagement and communicating on their level are some techniques that can assist a child to speak about their views. A child may choose to provide their view to a family member or professional rather than directly to their CSO. For very young children, consider if they are able to express their views in other ways, such as through their body language or at play therapy/counselling sessions.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the right to have an independent person to assist with their participation in decision-making processes. Provide age-appropriate information to help them understand this right, and then follow through on their request.
… to be protected
Relational, physical and legal permanency are all ways in which a child’s long-term wellbeing can be protected. While the safety of a child is paramount, the child has additional rights to live a full life and be cared for by their family (if safe to do so) or carers who respect their religion, culture and language.
Australian Human Rights Commission, Children’s Rights Report (2014)
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