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Annual Report 21: Policy & Advocacy in 2021

29 June 2022, Research and Reports

Campaigns for change 

Advocating for children’s rights wherever our voice is needed 

As Australia’s leading child rights organisation, our voice and our platform are powerful tools to influence public attention and government resources to bring about change for the most urgent and challenging issues. In 2021 we advocated and campaigned for children’s rights in Australia, the Pacific and globally wherever our voice was most needed.  

In Australia, we advocated to support and raise up children’s voices with the climate crisis. We used our platform to call out the continued impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of Australian children. We campaigned for raising Australia’s shamefully low minimum age of criminal responsibility. We worked to hold Australia to account for its human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council.  

In the Pacific, we continued to drive attention on the effects of COVID-19 to prevent more children and their families from being pushed into poverty. We called on the Australian Government to respond to the immediate effects of the climate crisis and protect children from violence.
Through our advocacy in 2021 we ensured that children impacted by humanitarian crises, such as in Afghanistan, were not forgotten. We helped Australia develop a human rights sanctions regime that protects children across the globe.   

Raise the age  

We have campaigned to raise Australia’s minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, and bring Australia into step with medical evidence, international standards, and human rights requirements.  

In calling on Victorian MPs to back raising the age of criminal responsibility in March 2021, Matt Gardiner, Executive Director of Australian Services said:

No 10-year-old should ever end up behind bars. On Closing the Gap Day, this is a critical measure that would help to achieve targets to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the criminal justice system. The simple but important step of raising the age would go a long way to breaking the cycle of disadvantage.

Matt Gardiner, Executive Director of Australian Services

This year our advocacy also included submissions to inquiries in Queensland and the ACT. In October 2021 the ACT committed to becoming the first jurisdiction in the country to raise the age from 10 to 14. As part of our campaign, we worked with the Raise the Age alliance to call for this overdue reform.  

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End COVID for all  

We have continued to work with development, health and other organisations to call for Australia to provide vital support to vulnerable nations as part of the End COVID For All campaign, particularly in the Pacific. We have highlighted the challenges as a result of low vaccination rates and concerns with the spread of misinformation about vaccines, and the impact on children and their families. To help inform a constructive conversation about the path forward for a fair and sustainable COVID recovery, we supported the publication of “Shot of Hope: Australia’s role in vaccinating the world against COVID-19”.  

In 2021 we called for Australia to provide vital support to vulnerable nations to help end COVID for all. 
Photo: Reginald Louissaint Jr. / Save the Children 

Affordable, non-discriminatory access to the vaccine is a human right.

United Nations, Human Rights Office

This research, which provided complimentary data and analysis for the End COVID For All campaign, offered recommendations for the Australian Government to increase its support to the global vaccine rollout. The research and campaign were driven by the core understanding that the COVID-19 pandemic will not end for anyone, until it ends for everyone.  

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Repatriating Australian children from camps in North East Syria 

We have continued efforts to bring back 47 Australian children and their mothers, detained indefinitely in North East Syria. We have campaigned publicly and privately to have them returned to Australia, working closely with representatives of the families, particularly Kamalle Dabboussy. That included launching the report, “When am I going to start to live?”: The urgent need to repatriate foreign children trapped in Al Hol and Roj Camps”

Al Hol camp in North East Syria where we have advocated for the repatriation of 47 Australian children. 
Source: MUHANNAD KHALIED/ Save the Children  

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Resilient families, connected communities  

In collaboration with the Paul Ramsay Foundation, in 2021 Save the Children Australia also launched a detailed study into the impacts of COVID-19 on children and young people across Australia. Previous financial crises have demonstrated the long-term, detrimental outcomes for young people, particularly in employment. Nowhere in modern history has such an economic crisis been accompanied by such large-scale health impacts, social disconnection and educational disruption.  

Data on the impact of lockdowns shows the need for a national children’s recovery plan.
Photos: Unsplash and Pexels

Mum and dad aren’t as patient as my teachers at school and they teach things differently.

6-12 year old survey respondent

To combat these impacts, it is critical that a comprehensive, holistic strategy to support children is adopted as part of the national political agenda. The research and analysis provided by the Focus on our Future report has built a compelling case for a national children’s COVID recovery plan. The study emphasised the urgent need to: 

  • Improve access to mental health services for children and young people in disadvantaged areas 
  • Address the potential long-term impacts of educational disruption and disengagement from schooling and the workforce 
  • Recognise that solutions cut across the social and economic policy landscape 

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Save the Planet 

In 2021, we launched our Save the Planet climate campaign, highlighting the urgent and dire consequences the climate crisis has on children’s rights. We amplified young voices, supported youth-led movements, assisted children’s environmental court cases and published our first climate report, “Born into the Climate Crisis: Why we must act now to secure children’s rights”. We have raised young voices across Australia and the Pacific by supporting Australia’s representative to the Youth Climate Summit in Milan, standing with students for nationwide strikes, calling for the inclusion of young voices during the Federal Election and building campaigning capacity of young people in Vanuatu to shape their climate future. 

We have advocated for young people to have a greater role in shaping climate policies
Photo: Pablo Barnes / Save the Children

Eva, 18, who understands the importance of youth representation says: 

Climate action is important to me, as it will define our present and our future. As a young person, we are tired of feeling undermined and silenced by politicians who don’t value youth representation… nor acknowledge the danger we are in.


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