National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell will release a scorecard today assessing outcomes for children rights across Australia.
One of the scorecard’s most significant recommendations is to raise the age of criminal responsibility. It makes clear there is no good rationale for detaining children under the age of 14, in any form of detention.
“All Australian governments need to recommit to the principle of child detention as a measure of last resort, because placing children behind bars amounts to taking away their childhood and disrupting their healthy development. It makes them more likely to go on and reoffend,” said Commissioner Mitchell.
The age of criminal responsibility in Australia is ten, which is low compared to many other countries, and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended all countries increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years.
“While most Australian children live in safe, healthy environments and do well, there are some groups whose rights are not well protected, which impacts negatively on their wellbeing and ability to thrive. This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children with disability, children in care, children in rural and remote locations, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and LGBTI children,” said Commissioner Mitchell.
Mental health outcomes for Australian children are concerning, with suicide the leading cause of death for children aged 5-17 in 2017 and 35,997 hospitalisations for intentional self-harm in the ten years to 2017.
“There is a national shortage of mental health services and more needs to be done to care for the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people and much earlier in their lives,” Commissioner Mitchell said.
The scorecard calls on the Federal Government to develop a National Plan for Child Wellbeing and to appoint a Cabinet level Minister with responsibility for driving children’s issues at the national level.
The scorecard also addresses children’s rights in relation to immigration detention and the impact of climate change on children’s rights, health and an adequate standard of living.
Mikiko Otani, a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child will present the scorecard at a conference at Melbourne University today at 11am. It coincides with the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.