The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) took note of the Australian government’s submission on its Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs retaining national responsibility for children’s rights following its change in government in 2007. However, the CRC expressed concern that the federal system presents practical challenges to the co-ordination of activities for the consistent implementation of the Convention, resulting in significant disparities in the implementation of the Convention across states and territories.
Therefore, the CRC recommended that Australia:
- Consider establishing a technical body or mechanism, with adequate human, technical and financial resources, for advising the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on the coherence of the policies and strategies of its entities and ministries responsible for the implementation of the Convention throughout its territory; and
- The Ministry for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs be provided with the specific mandate, capabilities and resources to undertake its co-ordination responsibilities regarding child rights.
- Article 4: The government should undertake all appropriate measures to implement the rights recognized in the Convention
Areas lacking progress
NATIONAL: Absence of technical body or mechanism to advise COAG
In Australia, nine federal, state and territory jurisdictions hold significant responsibility for implementation of child focused policies and programs. COAG promotes policy reforms that are of national significance, or which need co-ordinated action by all Australian governments. Whilst COAG has many policy initiatives at the national level that focus on children, the National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, commented, “unfortunately, with respect to children, few national initiatives recognise the [Convention].” She suggested:
one possible way to create a mechanism to link the implementation of national policy initiatives to the CRC would be for national policy reforms and initiatives to include, in their ongoing monitoring and evaluation processes, a component that reports on how they are giving effect to the articles of the CRC. Ultimately, it would be possible to co-ordinate these responses into a consolidated report which would indicate how the rights of children were being given effect at a national level. 
Notwithstanding the CRC’s recommendations, Australia has failed to establish a technical body or mechanism for advising COAG on coherent implementation of the Convention throughout its territories. COAG has recently resolved to reduce the amount of standing councils that provide it with advice and guidance on areas of national significant in a move to reduce red tape and bureaucracy.  The 22 standing councils will be streamlined to 8 over the next 12-18 months.  This move to reduce advisory councils suggests COAG is unlikely to consider establishing a standing council or other body to provide advice in relation to children’s rights in the near future.
NATIONAL: Lack of federal department with specific mandate to co-ordinate child rights
In September 2013, there was a change of government in Australia and the Department for Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs became part of the Australian Government Department of Social Services.  Whilst the Department of Social Services helps to support families and children through programs and services and benefits and payments, it still lacks the mandate, capabilities and resources to undertake co-ordination responsibilities regarding child rights.
- Australia should consider establishing a technical body or mechanism, with adequate human, technical and financial resources, for advising the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on the coherence of the policies and strategies of its entities and ministries responsible for the implementation of the Convention throughout its territory.
- The Ministry for Social Services should be provided with the specific mandate, capabilities and resources to undertake its co-ordination responsibilities regarding child rights.
- Megan Mitchell, Children’s Rights Report 2013, p50, http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/ChildrenRightsReport2013.pdf
- Ibid, p51
- Council of Australian Governments, COAG Communique, p4,13 December 2013 https://www.coag.gov.au/node/516 (accessed on 13 January 2014)
- Department of Social Services, ‘About the Department: Changes to the Department’ http://www.dss.gov.au/about-fahcsia/feature/changes-to-the-department