Alternative Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child
The Law Council is grateful for the opportunity to submit an alternative report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) regarding Australia’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The Law Council has chosen to comment on the following key areas of concern:
(a) Australia’s reservation to article 37(c) of the CRC, which requires children to be separated from adults in prison, unless it is in the child’s best interests not to do so. This reservation should be withdrawn;
(b) barriers to access to justice for children and young people, including underfunding of specialist legal assistance services, and specialist courts. This makes it difficult for children to participate meaningfully in the justice system;
(c) problematic police practices with respect to certain groups of young people, in particular homeless and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people;
(d) child protection practices, including high rates of child removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, minimal oversight and the criminalisation of children in out-of-home care;
(e) immigration policies that require the protracted detention of people seeking asylum who arrive by boat in offshore processing centres that are harmful for children;
(f) the age of criminal responsibility being 10 years, despite repeated calls from civil society in Australia and UN bodies to raise it to at least 12 years;
(g) widespread concerns regarding the mistreatment and abuse in juvenile detention centres and the urgent need for juvenile detention reform across multiple Australian jurisdictions;
(h) the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the criminal justice and child protection systems;
(i) bail laws and practices, including conditions that result in a child’s ongoing pre-trial detention if suitable accommodation cannot be found, or which penalise children with custodial sentences for breach of bail conditions; and
(j) mandatory sentencing laws which can result in unjust and harsh sentences for minor offences, failing to account for a child’s particular circumstances.
These comments have been informed by the Law Council’s previously held positions and the Justice Project – the Law Council’s national review into the state of access to justice in Australia for people experiencing significant disadvantage, including children and young people. Its final report was released in August 2018.
You can read the full submission below.