The National Children’s Commissioner is conducting a project that investigates opportunities for reform of youth justice and related systems across Australia, based on evidence and the protection of human rights. The project will explore ways to reduce children’s involvement in crime, including through prevention and early intervention.
While Australia has made some reforms to youth justice systems, there remain laws, policies and practices that impact negatively on the rights and well-being of children and young people and fail to serve the wider public interest. Official inspections have repeatedly reported on the maltreatment of children in youth detention in some jurisdictions. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds with complex needs and disabilities, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, are overrepresented in child protection and youth justice statistics across the country.
Research has pointed to problems with service systems intended to provide support for children and families, including health, mental health, education, and social services. The poor design and inaccessibility of support services lead to pressures on child protection and youth justice systems.
All children in Australia, including children who commit criminal offences, are entitled to have their human rights protected. These rights are set out in international human rights treaties, in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). They include children’s rights to have their best interests as a primary consideration, to be treated fairly and without discrimination, to be kept safe and healthy, to engage in education, and to have their views taken into account in decisions that affect them.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child calls on nations to implement comprehensive child justice policies that protect children’s rights.i
This project will gather information through a range of processes, including a review of existing literature and research, submissions from experts and organisations, and a series of stakeholder interviews and roundtables across Australia.
We will also hold targeted consultations with children and young people, including those in contact with youth justice systems across the country. Their voices will be at the centre of what is proposed. Children and young people involved in consultations will also be invited to make individual submissions, with parent/guardian consent.
The project’s findings and recommendations will be reported to the Commonwealth Attorney-General through a National Children’s Commissioner’s Statutory Report under section 46MB of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth).
The National Children’s Commissioner invites submissions from organisations and individuals aged 18 years and over on the following questions.
If you are under the age of 18 and wish to make a submission, please contact the Children’s Rights Team by email email@example.com.
- What factors contribute to children’s and young people’s involvement in youth justice systems in Australia?
- What needs to be changed so that youth justice and related systems protect the rights and wellbeing of children and young people? What are the barriers to change, and how can these be overcome?
- Can you identify reforms that show evidence of positive outcomes, including reductions in children’s and young people’s involvement in youth justice and child protection systems, either in Australia or internationally?
- From your perspective, are there benefits in taking a national approach to youth justice and child wellbeing reform in Australia? If so, what are the next steps?
Submissions are limited to a total of 3000 words. Attachments or links to previously published work may be included in the submission, for example research papers.
Submissions must be sent to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions close on COB Sunday 18 June 2023.
In the interests of informed public debate, submissions will be made public unless you clearly identify that you wish it to remain confidential.
The Commission reserves the right to edit (for example, remove defamatory material or de-identify personal or sensitive information), or not to publish a submission, or any part of a submission, on its website at its own discretion.
The Commission’s publication of a submission is not an indication of the Commission’s endorsement of any views or comments contained in that submission.
In certain circumstances, Commission staff may be legally required to report concerns about child abuse to the police or child welfare authorities. We may also decide to make a voluntary report to the relevant authorities if we think that serious harm has occurred, or is occurring, or may occur in the future. See the Commission’s Child Safety and Wellbeing Policy.
If a child is in danger
If you believe a child or young person is in immediate danger, call Police on 000.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, and you are unsure which service to contact, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. Both are available from anywhere in Australia 24 hours a day (toll free) and provide generalist crisis counselling, information and referral services.
Other support services that you may find helpful are:
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or visit www.beyondblue.org.au
- MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78 or visit www.mensline.org.au
- 1800Respect: 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800respect.org.au
- BraveHearts Support Line: 1800 272 831 or visit www.bravehearts.org.au
- BlueKnot Helpline Disability Services: 1800 421 468 or visit https://blueknot.org.au/national-counselling-referral-service-disability/
- QLife: 1800 184 527 or visit https://qlife.org.au/
- 13 YARN: 13 92 76 or visit https://www.13yarn.org.au/
- eheadspace: 1800 650 890 or visit https://headspace.org.au/online-and-phone-support/.
 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment 24; Children’s rights in juvenile justice CRC/C/GC/24 (18 September 2019) paras 9–12.