HRLC and UNICEF Australia Submission to the Senate Select Committee re Regional Processing Centre in Nauru

On 13 May 2015, the Human Rights Law Centre and UNICEF Australia made a joint submission to the Senate Select Committee regarding recent allegations relating to conditions and circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru.

UNICEF Australia welcomes Foreign Minister Bishop’s new aid paradigm

UNICEF Australia has welcomed the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop’s unveiling of its new policy and benchmarks for Australia’s foreign aid program.

UNICEF Australia Chief Executive Officer Norman Gillespie said the announcement was evidence of Ms Bishop’s commitment and conviction in ensuring every dollar of Australian aid was maximised.

Dr Gillespie said the benchmarks of Australia’s aid program were central to international development and humanitarian aid organisations, like UNICEF, in delivering accountability and transparency to donors, governments, corporate and NGO partners and the communities in which they work.

“We endorse the Foreign Minister’s efforts to adopt a similar commitment to transparency and accountability that keeps the focus on delivering development and rights to the most vulnerable, including children. We look forward to the Australian Government redoubling its commitment in striving to reach the poorest of the poor, an opportunity which this new framework enables them to do,” Dr Gillespie said.

Dr Gillespie said the Abbott Government’s move from a model of “donor-recipient” to economic partnership was an opportunity to tackle challenging dynamics across regions that were inclusive of all sectors.

However, he cautioned that policies must continue to focus on the most vulnerable.

“Any effort by a donor government to extend the hand of partnership should be strongly supported. Economic growth is crucial to tackling poverty but all aid and development organisations are acutely aware that aid is at its most effective when it is targeting the hardest to reach,” Dr Gillespie said.

Dr Gillespie said it was very encouraging to see a focus on advancing the interest of women and girls.

“It is an ambitious commitment to extend 80 per cent of the aid program to tackle gender equity, and when achieved, promises significant positive change as we know women and girls are so often the drivers of sustainable, holistic development,” he said.
FOR MORE INFORMATION

Tim O’Connor, UNICEF Australia
(02) 8917 3247 / 0435 206 273
[email protected]

Kate Moore, UNICEF Australia
(02) 8917 3244 / 0407 150 771
[email protected]

 

Visit the UNICEF Australia website here.

SNAICC – Proposed changes to Budget Based Funded program will have negative impact on our children and families

Statement by Geraldine Atkinson, SNAICC Deputy Chairperson (Early Childhood)

SNAICC is extremely concerned that recommendations in the review of the Budget Based Funded (BBF) program have the potential to drastically change the program’s focus and have a detrimental impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

The BBF program funds some 270 Aboriginal early childhood services, which provide an array of services beyond child care — including nutrition, transport, family support, health and early intervention programs.

SNAICC identifies particular concerns across the following areas of the BBF review:

Service sustainability and the transition to Child Care Benefit

SNAICC is highly concerned about the emphasis placed on BBF services eventually becoming self-sustaining. While SNAICC believes BBF services should be supported to seek additional funding, this recommendation ignores the reality that many of these services operate in disadvantaged communities where a mainstream, self-sustaining child care model, that relies on the community paying, is not feasible. The review appears to contradict its own recommendation when it identifies that these services are usually located in communities where the market is unable to support the viable operation of the service.

Linked to this, SNAICC is extremely concerned with the recommendation that some BBF services be transitioned to Child Care Benefit (CCB) funding. While there are limitations in the current BBF model, simply shifting services to the mainstream childcare funding model is clearly not the answer.

Many services and sector experts have reinforced to SNAICC compelling reasons why the model would be incompatible for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early childhood services. Likely impacts include:

  • Decline in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children participation due to raised costs and heightened administrative requirements;
  • Limited support for children with additional needs; and
  • Increased need for services to admit high, fee-paying enrolments, rather than focusing on children most in need.

Requirement to charge fees

Key to BBF services’ ability to deliver culturally-centred care to some of Australia’s most vulnerable communities is that they generally charge little or no fee, recognising that this is critical to enable access for their families. However, among the review’s eight recommendations are that a service fee requirement be introduced.

SNAICC is highly concerned that charging fees will limit participation of the most disadvantaged families and children. Many BBF services do currently charge fees. Those that don’t, do this for a reason —namely that they understand that charging a fee would limit participation in vital early childhood and family support programs.

SNAICC does, however, support the recommendation that where services do choose to charge fees, the amount be set by the service based on the profile of the community and the families who attend the service.

Refocusing of program objectives

SNAICC is concerned that the review does not include a focus on urban centres in addition to regional and remote services. Evidence clearly indicates that there are still disadvantaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations within urban centres. We maintain that there is a strong need for culturally appropriate, integrated and affordable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early years services within urban, regional and remote areas.

We are also highly concerned that the review recommends a shift of the program objective to be limited to child care and early learning services — this change ignores the need for multifunctional and integrated early years and family support services, such as the Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Services (MACS) model.

We also dispute the assumption that the existence of the National Quality Framework negates the need for culturally competent services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. This need still exists, regardless of the existence of the NQF. The review has ignored the unique strengths of community-controlled services in family and community engagement, passing on culture, and supporting positive cultural identity for young children. It has also ignored the contribution of these services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community development and employment.

SNAICC does however support the emphasis on embedding quality and continuous improvement practices within BBF services, and agrees that measures need to be taken to “reduce administrative burden and improve the effectiveness of administrative obligations to benefit services and departmental management.”

In conclusion, SNAICC strongly believes that any reform of the BBF program must respond to and seek to address the persistently low educational, health and wellbeing outcomes experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Any changes to the current non-mainstream early childhood education and care model must ensure that they advance rather than undermine these outcomes.

Media inquiries:

Frank Hytten, SNAICC CEO, on 0432 345 652;
Holly Mason-White, SNAICC Senior Policy Officer, on 0405 827 274
Giuseppe Stramandinoli, SNAICC Media Officer, on 0419 508 125

 

Visit the SNAICC website here.

HRLC – Abandon racial vilification changes: over 120 organisations urge the Federal Government

In a joint open letter sent to Attorney-General George Brandis today, over 120 Aboriginal, ethnic, community, union, legal, religious and human rights organisations urged the Federal Government to abandon its controversial proposal to roll back racial vilification protections.

Leading organisations including Amnesty International Australia, ACOSS, ACTU, Oxfam Australia, GetUp! Australia, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, Settlement Council of Australia, Federation of Chinese Associations, YWCA, St Vincent de Paul, Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, Save the Children Australia, Refugee Council of Australia, UNICEF Australia and the Uniting Church have added their voice to the strong community opposition to the changes.

“Australia is a proudly multicultural nation. We have come a long way. These changes would wind back the clock. The proposal should be scrapped,” said Joe Caputo, Chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia.

“For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia, racism is a reality,” said Tammy Solonec, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Manager at Amnesty International. “Rolling back these laws would remove important legal protections and send a dangerous signal about where we stand on fighting racism in our community.”

“Australians want strong and effective laws against racial vilification. These changes would effectively remove Federal racial vilification protection entirely and give a green light to racism. It’s not surprising that there has been such strong opposition to the changes,” said Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre.

“These changes aren’t in the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and they’re not in the interest of the broader Australian community,” said Eddie Cubillo, Chief Executive Officer of NATSILS. “We urge the Federal Government to abandon the changes.”

The proposed changes to Federal laws that prohibit racial vilification were released on 25 March 2014 for consultation. The changes, if implemented, would radically change the laws by narrowing the scope of the existing protection and introducing a new extremely broad exemption for public discussion.

“The exemption is so broad, and the new protection is so narrow, that the combined changes would almost completely remove the existing Federal racial vilification protections,” said Mr de Kretser.

Over 5300 submissions were reportedly received by the Federal Government but the submissions have not been made public. In April, a Fairfax Nielsen poll found that 88 per cent of respondents believed it should remain unlawful to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the grounds of race. The Challenging Racism Project also confirmed strong community support for the laws.

A copy of the open letter can be found here.

For further information and comments, please contact Hugh de Kretser on 0403 965 340[email protected]

Visit the HRLC website here. 

Save the Children welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment to immunisation

Save the Children welcomes this week’s announcement by the Australian government to invest $100 million in funding for immunisation programmes overseas, including the drive to eradicate polio, a crippling disease that can lead to paralysis.

While polio has been eradicated from nearly all the countries in the world it is still prevalent in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Save the Children’s Dr Kate Worsley said, “Routine immunisation is critical to the healthy development of children across the globe. There is no reason for vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio to continue to cause unnecessary loss of life and permanent disability. We have the medicines and know-how to respond, and welcome the news of this $100 million commitment by the Australian Government.”

In 2012, an estimated 22.6 million infants worldwide were not reached with routine immunisation services, of whom more than half live in three countries: India, Indonesia and Nigeria. Particular efforts are needed to reach the underserved, especially those in remote areas, in deprived urban settings, in fragile states and strife-torn regions.

Alarmingly polio has been detected in Syria, a nation at war since 2011 where many people are now forced to consume contaminated water and food – the easiest and fastest way to transmit the polio disease. According to Save the Children, the incidence of polio in Syria is exacerbated by a collapse in the nation’s health system, as reported in its March 2014 report, “A Devastating Toll: The impact of three years of war on the health of Syria’s children”.

“The re-emergence of polio in Syria has had devastating impacts on children’s health, and now threatens to impact on neighbouring countries. While the international response to polio in Syria has been rapid, it also shows how quickly interrupted access to critical childhood immunisations sets us back on advances in health care and puts children’s lives at risk. International efforts focussed towards ensuring health systems are resilient to times of crisis, and supported both during and after a crisis, are essential in these difficult contexts,” added Dr Worsley.

For interviews call Ian Woolverton on 0408 00 11 67

Visit the Save the Children website here. 

SNAICC Family Matters – Western Australia Issues Paper

Family Matters – Kids safe in culture, not in care aims to address the dramatic over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care. The initiative is being led by SNAICC and driven by a National Coordinating Group comprising chief executive officers or chairs from Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak (QATS ICPP), Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS ), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, NSW Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat (AbSec) and Families Australia.

For more information contact Emma Sydenham at SNAICC [email protected]

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SNAICC Family Matters – Kids safe in culture, not in care

Family Matters – Kids safe in culture, not in care is an initiative led by the Secretariat National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) and driven by a National Coordinating Group.

Family Matters has a four year plan to halve the number of children across Australia in out-of-home care by 2018. Early childhood development and child protection legislation, policy and practices vary across Australia. In order to reduce the number of children in out-of-home care a state/territory based approach needs to be adopted.

For more information contact Emma Sydenham [email protected]

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UNICEF Submission to the Attorney General’s Department on the Amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975

Published in April 2014.

UNICEF Australia opposes the proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (RDA). While the proposed amendments specifically define vilification, removing the terms ‘insult’, ‘offend’ and ‘humiliate’, has the prospect of lowering community standards and values, in relation to racial vilification and hatred. Such a change risks further marginalising already vulnerable groups by weakening protections for people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and ethnic minority groups. Young people in Australia are particularly susceptible to a weakening of these protections due to their specific vulnerabilities.

The submission is available for download below.

 

For more information please contact Amy Lamoin at UNICEF Australia

Email: [email protected] Phone: (02) 8917 3220

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UNICEF Submission to the Australian Government, Department of Communication on Enhancing Online Safety for Children

Published in March 2014.

UNICEF Australia welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Department of Communications, on the subject of enhancing online safety for children and building positive digital citizenship.

The Internet offers genuine benefits for children, including access to information and culture, new ways to participate in multiple areas of public life and to be heard. In particular, the Internet has provided an important access pathway for some children living in regional and remote Australia, and children who live with disabilities who are physically isolated. It has also enabled children to stay connected with family and extended family who are living overseas. However, emerging digital technologies also present significant risks to children and young people.

These issues will be discussed in this submission.

For more information, please contact Amy Lamoin at UNICEF Australia at [email protected] or phone (02) 8917 3220.

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NATSILS – Good intentions aren’t enough to close the gap

Today the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) invite Prime Minister Tony Abbott to match his good intent with firm commitment and action.

NATSILS Chairperson, Shane Duffy, said that the Prime Minister has demonstrated his best intent towards addressing the disadvantage faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples but that what is needed now is turning good intentions into strong leadership and real action.

“Mr Abbott has repeatedly talked about his commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and has demonstrated such by moving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet where it can receive the attention it requires,” Mr Duffy said.

“While these initial steps are good signs that his intent and commitment are genuine, we are now reaching the point where the public are expecting greater leadership and definitive action.”

Mr Duffy said that the Government, led by the Prime Minister, needs to drive real change in a way that previous governments have failed to before, and recognise that addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage cannot be siloed amongst different areas of government service delivery and that addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration rates is as critical a part of the equation as progress in education, health and housing if we are to ever ‘close the gap’.

“Recent Commonwealth Government reports such as the Doing Time – Time for Doing report which followed an inquiry into the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in the criminal justice system, as well as non-government experts have all argued that progress in the other areas of the Closing the Gap policy program will not be achieved unless action is taken in the justice space,” Mr Duffy said.

“The Safe Communities Building Block of Closing the Gap is the only area that does not have a national partnership agreement with targets to ensure that funding is committed to enable action, that such action is nationally coordinated and that identified outcomes are achieved”.

Mr Duffy said that prior to last year’s election, all major political parties gave bipartisan commitment to introduce Closing the Gap justice targets in relation to reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration rates, but that the Coalition had started to step back from this commitment recently.

“We are disappointed that the Government has wavered from their previous commitment and call on the Prime Minister to honour his Government’s promises and commence consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experts from relevant sectors to design appropriate justice targets and the priorities for an associated national partnership agreement,” Mr Duffy said.
“Mr Abbott has an opportunity to show some real leadership here and while we recognise that progress will not be made overnight, what we need from the Prime Minister is long-term vision, steadfast commitment and action that goes beyond good intentions.”

Media contact: Rachel O’Brien 0438 748 389 or [email protected]

Download the media release here.