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New report endorses Greens’ call for national children’s commissioner

A new report on the rights of Australia's children has recommended the federal government create a national Children's Commissioner - adding more weight to the Greens' bill before parliament which would establish such a position.

"I was pleased to help launch  Listen to Children in Canberra, which will be given to the UN'S Committee on the Rights of the Child as a report card on how children's rights are protected in Australia," Greens' spokesperson for youth, childhood education and care, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said today.

"I told the audience I have written to every Federal MP and Senator this week, urging they support the Greens' bill to create the Commonwealth Commissioner for Children and Young People.

"The Commissioner's powers would cover young non‐citizens without guardians who arrive in Australia without the protections given to those with visas or other authority to enter. The Greens are committed to presenting their bill for a debate and vote by the end of this year.

"The report notes the UN Committee has twice, in 2002 and 2003, called on the Australian government to create a national children's commissioner.

"We need a children's commissioner to ensure the rights of some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians, as well as non-Australian nationals, are protected. There are similar federal posts, but none who solely represent the interests of children.

"The Commissioner would tackle problems such as child abuse, neglect, poor education, poverty, youth homelessness and social disadvantage. The Commissioner would also provide a voice for young people, a means of communication with Government, and a simple avenue for complaint for ill-treatment.

 "The report also notes that children seeking asylum are continuing to be placed in mandatory, indefinite detention, contrary to our international obligations.

"The Greens and the report say the Migration Act needs to be amended to remove the automatic detention of asylum seeker children and ensure the measure is only used as a last resort, not the first, as happens now."

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