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Human Rights Council - 19th Regular Session
Annual Full-Day Meeting on the Rights of the Child
8 March 2012
Australia welcomes the opportunity to address the specific issue of children and the administration of justice. The responsibility of states to afford children special protections is never more apparent than in addressing the particular vulnerabilities of children in the justice system.
Australia is committed to working within our federal system of government to ensure that children in the justice system are treated with humanity and respect in a manner appropriate to their age. All Australian jurisdictions have established separate Children’s Courts and employ diversionary measures for young offenders to avoid courts and detention wherever possible in order to protect children’s legal rights and ensure that their voices are heard.
Australia is also aware of the adverse effects that parental contact with the criminal justice system can have for children. Children of incarcerated parents can experience significant social disadvantage, and are at heightened risk of parental drug and alcohol abuse, family violence, mental illness, poverty, child abuse, and social isolation.
We are also deeply concerned at the disproportionate representation of Indigenous Australians in the Australian justice system and in detention, and we recognise that separation from parents due to detention or imprisonment is a key issue affecting Indigenous children and young people. One way in which we are seeking to address this is to improve Indigenous educational engagement, including in the criminal justice system.
In this context, Australia is interested in learning more about programs for children that come in contact with the prison system, either themselves or as a result of incarcerated parents. We are also interested in learning more about how other States coordinate legislation and policies across jurisdictions and institutions to ensure children are afforded appropriate protections.