Australia’s National Children's Commissioner Anne Hollonds is urging governments and service providers to implement a new national toolkit to help improve laws and policy decisions and monitor their impacts on children.
The Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) tool, developed by the Australian Human Rights Commission with support from UNICEF Australia, will help governments and service providers to assess how children's rights and wellbeing are affected by any law, policy or program.
The 18-question checklist can be used to measure the anticipated impact of a new law or policy, and whether it supports the best interests of children and their families in Australia.
The toolkit report Safeguarding Children: Using a child rights impact assessment to improve our laws and policies includes a case study in which the effects of policies and school closures on children during the COVID-19 pandemic are retrospectively assessed using the tool. This includes an evaluation of impacts on different groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and children with disability.
Commissioner Anne Hollonds said the use of child impact assessments has been recommended by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child since 2003, but this will be the first time Australia has a national Child Rights Impact Assessment tool. “Australia needs to make child wellbeing a bipartisan national priority and ensure that the unique needs and voices of children and young people are heard,” Commissioner Hollonds said.
“This tool provides human rights-based principles to guide decisions about policies and laws affecting children and young people, who are typically ‘invisible’ and not heard. This will be helpful across all policy areas, including youth justice and child protection, which are failing to properly support children and young people.
“This will enable us to prevent long-term human and economic problems that arise from the neglect of child health, development, learning, safety and wellbeing.”
Nicole Breeze, Chief Advocate for Children at UNICEF Australia said: “During the COVID pandemic Australia’s policymakers took steps through wage support and social protection for families, but there was a lack of attention to the unique needs of children,” says Ms Breeze.
“A national CRIA would allow us to respond consistently across the country, in areas like education, public health, youth justice or emergencies such as a global pandemic or a disaster. There’s an opportunity to provide better support for children.
“While not mandatory, the Australian Human Rights Commission and UNICEF Australia are encouraging state, territory, and federal legislators and policymakers to use the CRIA tool as a checklist when designing new laws and policies that relate to children.”
Read more in the report: Safeguarding Children: Using a child rights impact assessment to improve our laws and policies.
About the National Children’s Commissioner and Australian Human Rights Commission
The National Children’s Commissioner is part of the Australian Human Rights Commission, which is Australia’s National Human Rights Institution. The Commission promotes and protects the human rights of Australian citizens and people detained by Australian authorities. The Commission is a statutory body funded by, but operating independently of, the Australian Government.
UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF Australia and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.au