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Save the Children calls for Australia to introduce Federal Human Rights Act

Enshrining human rights into legislation would better protect and promote the unique needs of children in Australia.
25 August 2023

Save the Children is appearing today at a public hearing for the Inquiry into Australia's Human Rights Framework to prosecute its case for a Federal Human Rights Act to better protect and promote Australian children.

The leading child rights charity has long advocated for more robust human rights mechanisms in Australian legislation, informed by its practical experience nationwide as a service provider and through translating child rights principles into policy and system change.

A Federal Human Rights Act would be complementary to existing frameworks to which Australia is signatory, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Save the Children Head of Policy Simon Henderson said a legislated federal Human Rights Act would improve the rights of all children in Australia.

“Currently, the protection of child rights in Australia is patchy at best. A Federal Human Rights Act has long been a significant missing piece of Australian legislation, detrimentally affecting the lives of so many children,”  Mr. Henderson said.

“Committing to a Federal Human Rights Act would be only the first step – the legislation must also include specific considerations for the distinctive needs of children, including recognising governmental responsibility for the root causes and underlying conditions leading to their rights being violated –such as poverty, the effects of colonisation, and the growing threats posed by the climate crisis.”

“One of the most crucial parts of making this legislation fit for purpose will be listening to, and being informed by, the voices of children themselves. While adults are responsible for putting in the measures needed to protect children, children are the ones who are impacted so they must be active participants in this process,”  Mr. Henderson said.

Save the Children Youth Advisor Dante Casanova said laws and policies made about children and young people without their input are bound to be inefficient and ineffective.

“No one can expect to have full knowledge and understanding of a group of people without actually asking them. The people who best understand the experience of today's children and young people are today's children and young people,”  they said.

“Climate change, the housing and cost of living crisis and domestic violence all affect children and young people more extremely than any other group, yet we are not considered in policy making.”

Earlier this year, Save the Children published a significant report revealing egregious child rights violations in Australia's youth justice system, shining a light not only on a flawed youth justice system but areas of improvement needed in terms of child rights nationally.

“Children in juvenile detention and who are engaged with the justice system are being demonised in the media and in the court of public opinion and are having their human rights actively infringed, including by the Queensland Government just this week.

“The point of a federal human rights act is that it accounts for and covers all the most vulnerable people in society. Children's rights matter because children are people,”  Mx Casanova said.




  • This public hearing for the Inquiry into Australia's Human Rights Framework is being held in Melbourne today, Friday 25 August, 2023.
  • Save the Children’s Head of Policy Simon Henderson, Group Executive Director of Strategy & Public Affairs Mr. Aram Hosie, and Save the Children Youth Advisor Mx. Dante Casanova will address the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.
  • Save the Children’s full submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into Australia’s human rights framework is available here.
  • Beyond a Federal Human Rights Act, Save the Children is also calling for broader child rights structural reform. That should include a renewed Australian human rights framework that better protects the rights of children, including a National Children’s Plan, full incorporation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into law and policy, and ongoing mechanisms to enhance children’s participation in decision making.

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