Children’s Rights

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Early Childhood Australia’s (ECA) vision is that every young child is thriving and learning. Our work is guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Click on the boxes below to learn more about the Rights of the Child.

 

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC) is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations. It is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights. The Convention defines a ‘child’ as a person below the age of 18, unless the laws of a particular country set the legal age for adulthood younger.

One of the most internationally recognised treaties, the Convention sets out the basic rights of children and the obligations of governments to fulfil those rights. This ground-breaking treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 and was ratified by Australia in December 1990. Despite being ratified by Australia, it has not yet been incorporated into Australian law. However, having ratified the Convention, Australia’s government has committed to make sure every child in Australia has every right under each of 54 Articles in the Convention. Compliance with the Convention is monitored by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is based in Geneva. Governments who are party to the Convention must report every five years to the Committee on the Rights of the Child highlighting what they are doing to ensure children’s rights are being met.

The Convention applies to all children, whatever their race, religion or abilities; whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from. It doesn’t matter where children live, what language they speak, what their parents do, whether they are boys or girls, what their culture is, whether they have a disability or whether they are rich or poor. No child should be treated unfairly on any basis.

Early Childhood Australia’s (ECA) vision is that every young child is thriving and learning. Our work is guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Our role in achieving this vision is to be an effective advocate for young children and a champion for quality outcomes in early childhood education and care.

To view the full CRC click here.

To view a plain English summary of the CRC click here.

To view a simplified version of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child click here.

To view the Convention on the Rights of the Child in different languages click here.Children reading photo

Child's rights over the past 25 years

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. If you are aged 25, or younger, you have experienced a childhood that has been protected by the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. The Convention changed the way children are viewed and treated – that is, as human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of as passive objects of care and charity.

The unprecedented acceptance of the Convention clearly shows a wide global commitment to advancing children’s rights. There is much to celebrate in marking the 25th anniversary of the Convention, but this historic milestone also serves as an urgent reminder that much remains to be done. In 2014, Early Childhood Australia has been working with its membership, child rights advocates, academics and experts in the sector to develop a ‘Statement of Intent Supporting Young Children’s Rights’ and resources to support teachers, educators, the community, families and children to ethically and authentically support the rights of children in early childhood; to understand and implement child rights education in early childhood education and care settings, and to advocate for children’s rights.

The Australian Early Years Learning Framework states that ‘early childhood educators will reinforce in their daily practice the principles laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’ (2009, p.5).

 

Child's rights: the four key principles

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child consists of 54 articles and is guided by four fundamental principles:

1. Every child, everywhere (Article 1): Children should neither benefit nor suffer because of their race, colour, gender, language, religion, national, social or ethnic origin, or because of any political or other opinion; because of their caste, property or birth status; or because they are disabled.

2. The best interests of the child (Article 3): Laws and actions affecting children should put their best interests first and benefit them in the best possible way. All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children. This particularly applies to budget, policy and law makers.

3. Survival, development and protection (Article 6): Children have the right to live. The authorities in each country must protect children and help ensure their full development — physically, spiritually, morally and socially.

4. A voice (Article 12): Children have a right to have their say in decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account. This does not mean that children can now tell their parents what to do. This Convention encourages adults to listen to the opinions of children and involve them in decision-making — not give children authority over adults. Article 12 does not interfere with parents’ right and responsibility to express their views on matters affecting their children. Moreover, the Convention recognizes that the level of a child’s participation in decisions must be appropriate to the child’s level of maturity. Children’s ability to form and express their opinions develops with age and most adults will naturally give the views of teenagers greater weight than those of a preschooler, whether in family, legal or administrative decisions.

The best interest of the child

The principle of the best interests of the child is set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The article includes which actions are affected and whose actions are covered and what might be included in the concept of the best interests of the child. The Australian Human Rights Commission brief outlines information related to the best interest of the child – click here to view.

General Comments on the Rights of the Child

The Committee on the Rights of the Child publishes its interpretation of the provisions of the Convention in the form of general comments. Recent general comments include:

General Comment No. 15: The right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health (Article. 24)

General Comment No. 16: On State obligations regarding the impact of the business sector on children’s rights

General Comment No. 17: The right of the child to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts

Three children playing photo

Myths and facts

Four primary myths exist about the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC), including that CROC interferes with Australia’s sovereignty, with the balance between the commonwealth and state governments, with parent’s rights; that it is anti-family; and that CROC is unnecessary in the Australian context. Click here to view a resource that dispels some of these myths.

For children

‘What’s Up CROC?’ describes for children and young people some of the major issues covered by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and links these to particular articles in the Convention – click here to view.

Supporting young children’s rights: Statement of intent (2015–2018)

The Australian Early Years Learning Framework states that ‘early childhood educators will reinforce in their daily practice the principles laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’ (2009, p.5).Supporting young children’s rights: statement of intent is designed to support teachers, educators, the community, families and children to ethically and authentically support the rights of children in early childhood; to understand and implement child rights education in early childhood education and care settings, and to advocate for children’s rights.

The Supporting young children’s rights: Statement of intent (2015-2018) has been developed by Early Childhood Australia, in conjunction with the Australian Human Rights Commission, and highlights the central role of children’s rights for quality teaching and learning.

The statement is designed to support teachers, educators, the community, families and children to ethically and authentically support the rights of children in early childhood; to understand and implement child rights education in early childhood education and care settings, and to advocate for children’s rights.

Five key themes are included in the statement:

  • The right to be heard
  • freedom from violence, abuse and neglect
  • the opportunity to thrive
  • engaged civics and citizenship
  • action and accountability.

Order your copy of the statement here.

Download the statement here.

Educator and child photo

 

FAQs

Frequently asked questions about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including: how is it monitored and supported? Why is it special? And what is the new vision of the child in the Convention? And which countries have not ratified the CROC and why. Click here to view.