A new report is calling for governments to set a clear national agenda for children as it claims Australia’s youngest generation is the most vulnerable.
The report, from the Australian Child Rights Taskforce, led by UNICEF Australia and the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, highlights that despite two decades of consecutive economic growth, one in six children in Australia still lives below the poverty line.
It also found that more than 70,000 children received assistance from specialist homelessness services, with no view of a long term solution.
The launch of the Australian Child Rights Progress Report on Friday marks 25 years since Australia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, agreeing to a set of standards and obligations for all children.
According to UNICEF Australia 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.
UNICEF Australia chief executive officer Adrian Graham said the report, which considers the progress – or lack thereof – for children across a number of key social policy areas including family life, education and care and justice and health, shows Australia is not the lucky country for many children.
“This report confirms that discrimination is persistent for some children growing up in Australia and that their lives are not getting any easier,” Graham said.
“Children living in poverty have less access to both primary and specialist health services than the general population, higher levels of contact with the criminal justice system and greater exposure to domestic violence.
“Children living in poverty are also more likely to be removed from their families and placed into care arrangements.
“Australia is not the lucky country for many children.”
In particular, the report identifies that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) children, children from rural areas, children with disabilities and children from migrant backgrounds are still more likely to experience poverty, discrimination, social exclusion and disadvantage.
Other key findings include:
- Only 74 per cent of 20 to 24-year olds from low socioeconomic backgrounds complete Year 12 or equivalent, compared with 94 per cent of 20 to 24-year olds from high socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for 25 per cent of the homeless population, while making up just 2.5 per cent of the general population.
- 9.3 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are living in poverty, compared to 12.4 per cent of non- indigenous children.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 9.2 times more likely to be in out of home care than non-Indigenous children.
- In 1990 there were 3 per 1,000 children in out of home care. In 2014 this had grown to 8.1 per 1,000 children.
- In 1991, of the children placed in out of home care, 16 per cent were in institutional care, compared to 6 per cent in 2014.
- 75 per cent of the children in residential care who have been subject to sexual abuse are female.
- The level of over-representation of Indigenous people aged 10 – 17 years in detention increased from 19 times the rate of non-Indigenous young people in 2011 to 26 times in 2015.
- Young people who have been homeless have a mental (79.9 per cent) or physical (61.2 per cent) disability. This figure is 55.6 per cent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
- 12 times as many children under 18 years of age used the email legal advice service between 2010 – 2014, rather than traditional legal services.
Graham said the report serves as a reminder that no child should be left behind and the Taskforce, the peak body for child rights in Australia, is now calling on the government to set an agenda for children.
“The well-being of children should be shaped by sound leadership and policy choices,” Graham said.
“The Australian Child Rights Progress Report is a clear reminder that Australia must place equity at the heart of our agenda for children, with the idea that no child should be left behind.
“The Taskforce calls on the Australian government to adopt a comprehensive national policy agenda for children that include measures to ensure that all children growing up in Australia have a decent quality of life.”