Roxon announces national
ATTORNEY-GENERAL Nicola Roxon has moved to establish a National Children’s Commissioner, declaring “We want to give kids the best start in life”.
The commissioner would ensure there was an independent, child-focused voice to advocate for children and young people at the national level, Ms Roxon told parliament yesterday (Wednesday, May 23) as she introduced legislation to establish the office.
The commissioner would raise public awareness of issues affecting children through discussion, research and educational programs.
It would examine existing and proposed commonwealth legislation to determine it recognises and protects children’s rights and consult directly with children and their representative organisations.
“This will signal to children and young people that we as adults think that they matter – that we value their childhood and that we listen to their needs and hopes,” says Ms Roxon.
The commissioner would have a clear focus on vulnerable or at-risk groups.
However, the work of state and territory bodies would not be duplicated, with the national commissioner having no guardianship role or the power to deal with individual cases.
The new commissioner, who will come under the umbrella of the Australian Human Rights Commission, will cost $3.5 million over four years.
Debate on the Australian Human Rights Commission Amendment (National Children's Commissioner) Bill 2012 was adjourned.
Human Rights Commission president, Catherine Branson, later told a Senate estimates hearing the $3.5 million in funding being provided wasn’t enough to get the job done.
The money would cover the salaries of the new commissioner and their staff “but would not be adequate to assist with what we would expect to be a rise in complaints made under the convention on the rights of the child”.
“And it will not have the capacity to support the additional demands on the support services of the commission,” Ms Branson says, citing the potential need for extra lawyers, finance and human resources staff.