Children and young people

Settings

(a) Home and family

Most violence is perpetrated against children and young people by someone they know, often in the family. Addressing family violence raises multiple challenges due to its ‘private’ nature and the widespread recognition that the family is the natural environment for its members and should provide physical and emotional safety.[63]

Children are frequently affected by intimate partner violence. 36% of people experiencing violence by a current partner and 39% of those experiencing violence by a former partner report that violence was witnessed by children in their care.[64] The impact of witnessing family violence is almost the same on children and young people as direct physical abuse. It is also recognised that children and young people from homes where family violence occurs are more vulnerable to being subject to physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.[65]

Children and young people are present in approximately 60% of homes where family violence occurs. In 45% of hospitalised cases for assault against young people, the perpetrator was a parent, carer or other family member.[66] On average, 25 children are killed by their parents each year.[67] About 10% of young people 18 to 24 years feel unsafe in their homes at night. Corporal punishment is still legal in the home in all states and territories.[68]
Homeless young people are particularly vulnerable to violence, abuse and sexual exploitation. This was noted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child who have stated that governments are required to develop policies and enact and enforce legislation that protect adolescents experiencing homelessness from violence.[69]

Violence, harassment and bullying in the home and family have long term consequences and can violate a number of human rights including the right to life, survival and development.

(b) Schools and education settings

Bullying in Australian schools is a serious problem, with over 20% of males and 15% of females aged 8 to 18 years reporting being bullied at least once a week.[70] Corporal punishment is still lawful in private educational institutions in some states and territories. Concerns about this have been raised by the UN.[71] International students have increasingly faced safety and welfare concerns in the face of higher rates of racially motivated violence.[72] Concerns have also been raised by the UN about the security of international students due to racially motivated attacks.[73]

Violence, harassment and bullying in school and education settings violate a number of human rights including the right to education.[74]

(c) Care

Out of home care encompasses kinship/relative, foster and residential care.[75] In 2008 there were 31,166 children in out of home care.[76] This includes children and young people in both voluntary and involuntary placements as a consequence of having contact with child protection authorities. Children in out of home care have some of the worst health, educational and employment outcomes in Australia. As well as the high likelihood of experiences of abuse and neglect as one cause of their initial removal from their family, children continue to be vulnerable while in care and even after leaving care as young adults.

Research shows almost half of those leaving care; experience homelessness, almost half attempt or think of attempting suicide, more than half having committed criminal offences, and almost one third of young women fell pregnant or had a child soon after leaving care.[77]

Children and young people in out of home care are likely to have had many of their rights violated in the lead up to being taken into care, including the right to be free from violence, the right to life, survival and development, the right to the highest attainable standard of health and the right to education. These violations continue in the poor long term outcomes that many children have as a result of being in out of home care.

(d) Justice

There are established links between child abuse and neglect, homelessness and children in juvenile justice settings.[78] In Australia there were 9540 young people who experienced some type of juvenile justice supervision in 2007-08. This excludes NSW which did not provide data. The number of young people in juvenile detention has increased by 17% from 2004-05 to 2007-08.[79]

There is a significant increase in the numbers of unsentenced young people in detention. In 2004-05 one third of the daily detention population were unsentenced and in 2007-08 over half were unsentenced. Approximately 60% unsentenced young people in detention were Indigenous.[80] An Indigenous young person was 30 times more likely to be in detention than a non Indigenous young person.

As discussed above, young people in juvenile justice settings are likely to have experienced multiple human rights violations both prior to being detained and while in detention .

(e) Children in immigration detention

There are over 1000 children (aged under 18 years) in immigration detention facilities.[81] Children in immigration detention are particularly vulnerable to violence, harassment and bullying. Because of a lack of transparent monitoring of levels of violence, harassment and bullying in detention facilities it is difficult to know the extent of their prevalence.

Australia has an obligation under International human rights standards, to take ‘all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures’ to ensure that children are protected from all types of violence, abuse or neglect. This means that the Government must take positive steps to ensure that children are protected from physical or mental violence, abuse or neglect in detention.

The Commission has raised concerns about the lack of coordination between the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and state child welfare authorities regarding responsibilities for the welfare and protection of children in immigration detention.[82]

Children and young people in immigration detention experience multiple human rights violations including the right to be free from violence and the right to life, survival and development.

(f) Work

Young people enter the workforce in large numbers while at secondary school.[83] Many of those young people will experience violence, harassment and bullying in the workplace. This can include verbal abuse, threats, demeaning comments, assault, initiation ceremonies or sexual harassment. Young workers are at particular risk because they lack experience, are generally unfamiliar with workplace procedures, are unsure of their rights and are less likely to belong to a union.[84]

For example, it is estimated that in the fast food industry up to 35% of young people experience some form of workplace violence or bullying and almost 20% report experiencing some form of discrimination in the workplace.[85] Large numbers of young men and women report experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.[86] The true extent of workplace bullying and harassment is difficult to measure as young people are less likely to make reports because of the difficulties of making claims and because of concerns about the impact of reporting on their job.

Violence, harassment and bullying in the workplace can have a serious impact on the right of young people to work and to just and favourable conditions. An unhealthy, violent or threatening workplace may also result in the violation of other rights, such as the right to a private life and to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

(g) Community

Three quarters of men aged 18 to 24 years who were assaulted were attacked by a stranger, often in licensed premises or in the open. About one quarter of young people aged 18 to 24 years state that they feel unsafe or very unsafe when walking alone in their local area after dark. [87] The ABS 2006 General Social Survey shows that young people aged 18-24 living with disability are also more likely to feel unsafe at home at night.[88]

Violence, harassment and bullying of children and young people in public places violate a number of fundamental human rights, including the right to participate in public life, the right to freedom of expression and the right to security of the person.

(h) Media

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its report on Australia’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, explained the importance of protecting children and young people from exposure to violence, racism and pornography through mobile phones and other technologies, including the internet.[89]

(i) New technology

In Australia cyberbullying affects at least one in ten students.[90] Cyberbullying can be detrimental to mental and physical health.[91] Victims can experience significant social isolation and feel unsafe.[92] It can lead to emotional and physical harm,[93] loss of self-esteem, feelings of shame and anxiety, concentration and learning difficulties. Incidents of young people committing suicide have also occurred.

Cyberbullying and using new technologies to engage in other threatening and antisocial behaviour can seriously impact on the rights of others.

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[63] The Preamble of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the family is the natural environment for its members. See para 38, UNGA, UN Secretary General’s Study on violence against children, UN Doc A/61/299 (2006). At http://www.unicef.org/violencestudy/reports.html (viewed 26 August 2010).
[64] ABS, 2006
[65] COAG (2009) Protecting Children is Everyone’s Business: National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009 -2020
[66] AIHW (2009) A Picture of Australia’s Young People, p 105.
[67] Dearden J., & Jones W., (2008) Homicide in Australia: 2006-07 National Homicide Monitoring Program Annual Report, Australian Institute of Criminology
[68] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2005) Fortieth session Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 44 of the Convention, Concluding Observations: Australia, UN Doc CRC/C/15/Add.268 20 October 2005, para 35,
[69] Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 4 Adolescent health and development in the context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc CRC/GC/2003/4 (2003), para 36.
[70] Rigby K., & Slee P, The nature of school bullying: Australia (1999)
[71] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. (2005) Fortieth session Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 44 of the Convention, Concluding observations: Australia, para 35, UN Doc CRC/C/15/Add.268 20 October 2005.
[72] Gail Mason, Violence against Indian Students in Australia; A Question of Dignity, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10/48, University of Sydney Law School, May 2010.
[73]Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination UN Doc: CERD/C/AUS/CO/15-17, para 23
[74] The right to education is found in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, article 13.
[75] AIHW, A Picture of Australia’s Children(2009) p 28.
[76] COAG (2009) Protecting Children is Everyone’s Business: National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009 -2020. p 7.
[77] James Wood, Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW, Volume 1 (2008), pp 98 – 103. At www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/publications/news/stories/special_commission_of_i nquiry_into_child_protection_services_in_new_south_wales (viewed 26 August, 2010).
[78] AIHW Linking SAPP, Child Protection and Juvenile Justice Data Collections. Data linkage series number 5 ( 2008) p 2. At http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/10597 (viewed 1 September 2010).
[79] AIHW, Juvenile Justice In Australia, 2007 – 2008, ‘Juvenile Justice Series Number 5’ (2009) p vii. At http://www.aihw.gov.au/phjj/juvenilejustice/facts_and_figures.cfm (viewed 1 September 2010).
[80] AIHW Juvenile Justice In Australia, 2007 – 2008, Juvenile Justice Series Number 5. (2009) p vii.
[81] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Immigration detention statistics summary, Community and Detention Services Division, DIAC - As at 14 February 2011. At http://www.immi.gov.au/managing-australias-borders/detention/facilities/statistics/ (viewed 22 February 2011),
[82] Australian Human Rights Commission, Immigration Detention on Christmas Island (2009) p 25. At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/human_rights/immigration/idc2010_christmas_island.html (viewed 22 February 2010).
[83] U-who young people and unions, Dirt Cheap and Disposable, A report about the exploitation of young workers in South Australia. at http://esvc000026.wic059u.server-web.com/youth/resources.html (viewed 26 February 2011).
[84] OHS Reps@Work, Info Advice Support, At http://www.ohsrep.org.au/law-rights/rights/workers-rights/young-workers-and-ohs/index.cfm (viewed 26 February 2011).
[85] Vera Smiljanic ‘Dirt Cheap and Disposable, A report about the exploitation of young workers in South Australia;, Fast Food Industry: A Research Study of the Experiences and Problems of Young Workers, JobWatch (2004).
[86] Ibid
[87] General Social Survey 2006 in State of Australia’s Young People
[88] DEEWR, State of Australia’s Young People (2009) p 32 At http://www.deewr.gov.au/Youth/OfficeForYouth/Pages/Links.aspx (3 March 2011)
[89] They have also encouraged Australia to develop programs and strategies to use mobile technology, media advertisements and the internet to raise awareness among both children and parents on information and material injurious to the well-being of children. Committee on the Rights of the Child: Concluding Observations, Australia, UN Doc CRC/C/15/Add.268 (20 October 2005) para 33-34.
[90] See the Alannah and Madeline Foundation’s Bullying Hurts brochure. At http://www.amf.org.au/FactSheets (viewed December 2010).
[91] Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., et al., Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study, Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth. (2009), p 42; Sameer Hinduja; ‘Justin W. Patchin, Bullying, Cyberbullying and Suicide’, Archives of Suicide Research, (2007) 14:3, 206 – 221. At http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/section?content=a924722304&fulltext=713240928 (viewed 16 November 2010).
[92] See the National Centre Against Bullying. At http://www.ncab.org.au/bullying (viewed December 2010).
[93] Ibid