Monday night’s horrific exposure of state sanctioned abuse and torture of vulnerable Aboriginal children at Don Dale detention centre Northern Territory (NT) shocked and outraged the nation. Social media, Australian and International print media, many organisations, the Federal Government and then the NT Government strongly called for urgent action.
Within twelve hours, PM Turnbull called for a Royal Commission. The terms of reference were announced last night - they have been determined without any input from Aboriginal people! NT Aboriginal people had been demanding more.
Aboriginal Peak Organisations (APO) of the NT had called for the NT Government to be dissolved. Over one hundred organisations, Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal, called for the Royal Commission to be “independent...from the Northern Territory Government ...and...chaired by an appropriate expert ... [and that it]... must have Aboriginal representation from the NT.” There are calls for a second Royal Commissioner to be appointed, one from the NT and Aboriginal, and to be appointed by NT Aboriginal groups. There is a great lack of trust.
Thursday 23 June, 2016
All Australians should be concerned about the current 'unacceptable situation' of the individual rights of young people in addressing bullying, according to the Chair of the National Centre Against Bullying, the Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFC QC.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Radio National Breakfast, Friday 10 June 2016 8:06AM
Presenter: Fran Kelly
Guest: Hon. Alastair Nicholson
To mark 25 years since Australia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Australian Child Rights Taskforce has released a report tracking what progress has been made for Australia's children in that time.
The report has found that despite two decades of economic growth, one in six children still lives below the poverty line. And while considerable progress has been made in protecting child rights in Australia, there are a number of entrenched challenges that still need to be addressed.
Click here for Fran Kelly's interview with Hon. Alastair Nicholson
Address by the Honourable Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC
Chair Children’s Rights International
Australian Human Rights Commission, Sydney, NSW, 10 June 2016
Acknowledgments: Gadigal people of the Eora Nation; Megan Mitchell, National Children’s Commissioner; Tara Broughan, UNICEF Australia and Ahram Choi, NCYLC, Co-Chairs of the Australian Children’s Rights Task Force
This report by the Australian Child Rights taskforce convened by UNICEF Australia and the NYCYLC on the progress of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in the 25 years since Australia ratified the Convention, while indicating a number of areas of progress in this area, also highlights serious deficiencies in our national performance.
It is thus an important document, providing a much needed measure of where we stand written from an independent point of view. I commented in my opening remarks published in the report that it makes uncomfortable reading for Australians, as did the 2012 report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about Australia’s performance.
That report expressed concern at:
‘The absence of a comprehensive National Plan of Action…a comprehensive strategy, in consultation with children and civil society, for the overall realisation of principles and provisions of the Convention …. which can provide a framework for states and territories to adopt similar plans and strategies’.
As this report points out, in line with the UN recommendation, while there has been progress in a number of areas there is a lack of proper planning, particularly to address the problems of children most in need.
It points to the fact that certain groups of children and young people consistently face barriers to enjoying their rights and reaching their full potential including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children who are seeking asylum or have refugee status, children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children with disability, LGBTI children, homeless children and children from rural areas.
At present there is no Federal Minister with direct responsibility for children or youth. It thus does not engage in even a veiled pretence to include the voices of children and youth in decisions that affect them, which has become particularly clear in the defunding of dedicated children and youth organisations and peak bodies. It is true that we now have a distinguished Commissioner for Children but the issues facing Australian children are vast and cannot hope to be dealt with by one person with a limited staff.
I therefore commend the report’s conclusion that what is needed the to assign a Commonwealth Ministry with lead responsibility for policy regarding children and young people and the development of a National Plan for all children in Australia for the overall realisation and implementation of CRC. I also consider that such a Ministry should be led by a Minister with no other responsibility, so that he/she could devote their entire attention to children’s issues.
The Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Child Rights Taskforce invite you to a special discussion on the rights of children in Australia, as well as to launch CRC25 - the Australian Child Rights Progress Report.
Event details: Friday, 10th June 2016. 12:30pm - 1:30pm. At the Australian Human Rights Commission, L3, 175 Pitt St, Sydney.
How has the situation improved for children since Australia ratified the Convention on Rights of Child was ratified in Australia in 1990? Where has there been a lack of progress?
Please register: https://crc25.eventbrite.com.au
Constitutional change is key to a strong treaty with Indigenous Australians
by the Hon. Alastair Nicholson AO, RFD, QC
Published in Arena Magazine no. 141, April-May 2016: www.arena.org.au
The Aboriginal leader Djiniyini Gondarra has said:
‘The survival of the Aboriginal people relies on changes to the Constitution and the establishment of a Treaty. The Treaty needs to be born out of the people who have a strong connection with land, culture, spirituality and law rather than being established by government or a committee formed by government. It should be established by the people that maintain tradition because the necessary tools are already in place.’
The purpose of this article is to support the views expressed by Djiniyini Gondarra in the above quote: first, the need for changes to the Constitution; second, the establishment of a treaty; and, third, that it needs to be born out of the people concerned, who have a strong connection with land, culture, spirituality and law, rather than being established by government or a committee formed by it.