National Children’s Commissioner

Budget Review 2012–13 Index

Ian McCluskey

The Government will provide $3.5 million over four years to establish and fund a National Children’s Commissioner (NCC) to operate within the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).[1]

The AHRC already protects and promotes human rights within Australia. The establishment of the NCC will assist the AHRC in relation to children’s issues.

On 29 April 2012, in announcing the creation of the NCC, Ministers Roxon, Macklin and Collins stated that: 

  • the NCC would focus on promoting the rights, wellbeing and development of children and young people in Australia
  • the establishment of the NCC was a key action under the Government’s National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020 and
  • the NCC is to be a national advocate for children, complementing the work already being performed by states and territories. [2]

The NCC’s interests will include the promotion of public awareness of issues affecting children, the conduct of research and education programs, and consultation with children and representative organisations.  The NCC will also monitor Commonwealth legislation, policies and programs which impact upon children’s rights, wellbeing and development.  On the international level, the NCC will be able to monitor Australia’s level of compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Funding for the establishment of the NCC will be fully offset from savings across the Attorney-General’s and Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) portfolios.

The NCC will join the six existing Commissioners at the AHRC: the Human Rights Commissioner, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, the Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Race Discrimination Commissioner, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, and the Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

Legislation to establish the office of the NCC will be introduced in 2012 and the NCC is expected to take office at the end of the year. 

The Australian Greens have welcomed the Government’s announcement.  Senator Sarah Hanson-Young stated she had previously introduced two bills into the Senate which sought to establish an office of Children’s Commissioner.  Senator Hanson-Young is now looking forward to reviewing the Government’s Bill later this year.[3]

Families Australia CEO Brian Babington welcomed the establishment of the NCC, seeing it as ‘a major step forward in promoting the wellbeing and safety of Australia’s children and young people’.[4] 

Ben Schokman of the Human Rights Law Centre noted that the creation of the NCC has been advocated by NGOs for some time and was a key recommendation of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in its last review of Australia in 2005.[5]  Mr Schokman also noted that the UN Human Rights Council recommended the office of NCC be created when it reviewed Australia’s human rights record in 2011.[6]  Certain comparable jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Norway already have full-time children’s rights commissioners.[7]

[1].       Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no.2: 2012-13, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, pp. 86–87, viewed 10 May 2012.

[2].       N Roxon (Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Management), J Macklin (Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) and J Collins (Minister for Community Services), Gillard Government to establish National Children’s Commissioner, media release, 29 April 2012, viewed 10 May 2012. 

3.     Government to adopt Greens push for a National Children’s Commissioner a welcome step: Greens, media release, 30 April 2012, viewed 17 May 2012.

[4].       Families Australia,  National Children's Commissioner: a welcome move, media release, 29 April 2012, viewed 17 May 2012.

5.     UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: Concluding Observations, Australia, 20 October 2005, paras. 15-16, viewed 17 May 2012.

6.     UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Australia, par. 86.28, 24 March 2011, viewed 17 May 2012.

[7].      Human Rights Law Centre, New National Children’s Commissioner will promote and protect the human rights of vulnerable children and young people, media release, 29 Apr 2012, viewed 17 May 2012.

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