Australia is not making sufficient progress in policies and programs to support children, particularly disadvantaged children, according to UNICEF’s new Children’s Report launched today.
Speaking at the launch event at the National Press Club in Canberra, UNICEF Australia Chair Ann Sherry said: “Too many of our children are growing up with violence and inadequate education opportunities. We should be asking the question – How have we lost track of children in our country and community?”
“This report clearly demonstrates the extent to which our country is letting many of our children down – particularly our most vulnerable and disadvantaged – by failing to recognize and accommodate their obvious expertise in the development of policies and programs intended to support and shape their lives,” said UNICEF Australia CEO Tony Stuart.
Senior Policy Advisor, co-researcher and co-author of The Children’s Report, Freyana Irani, said, “While many children in Australia enjoy a good quality of life, for the ones that don’t, the extent of the disparity is shocking. Almost 30 years after committing to minimum standards for our children by signing the UN Children’s Convention, improvements have been only incremental and isolated.”
The Children’s Report adds to the growing concern of child and youth peak bodies, advocates and professionals who are concerned that Australia is failing children and young people, particularly in the area of mental health and wellbeing.
Also speaking at the event, Australia’s inaugural Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell said that suicide remains the leading cause of death for 5-17 year olds. Ms Mitchell also highlighted a lack of evidence and measurement of health and wellbeing outcomes for children.
“We need to embed entirely new cultural approaches to children right across society,” said Ms Mitchell.
The Report contains 190 recommendations to Government, including develop a national plan of action to implement the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child, provide enhances resources to the Children’s Commissioner and establish and fund a national research agenda for children and young people in Australia.
The Report has also highlighted the Government’s recent Child Care Subsidy reforms.
“Australia’s current ECEC system works to disadvantage already vulnerable groups of children, who stand to benefit the most from high quality early learning that can break the cycle of disadvantage.” – The Children’s Report, p. 58
The Report calls out that Australia is performing poorly compared to other developed countries in the provision of access to early education, and that Australia is one of only three OECD countries to see a decline in pre-primary enrolment at age three since 2005.
UNICEF has called on the Government to ensure universal access to early childhood
education for all three and four year old children in Australia, and to ensure at least two full days (22.5 hours) of subsidised quality early childhood per week for all children. Currently, only a minimum of 12 hours per week is provided under the Child Care Subsidy.