ALRC revisits the legal rights of children and young people in Australia

It is now a little over ten years since the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (now the Australian Human Rights Commission) released the landmark 1997 report Seen and Heard: Priority for Children in the Legal Process (ALRC Report 84).

Seen and Heard represented the culmination of a major two-year inquiry exploring how children and young people are treated by Australia’s legal system and Australia’s international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In the wake of the tenth anniversary of this historic report, the ALRC today released Reform Issue 92, ‘Children and Young People’ which examines the current treatment of children and young people in the legal process, against the backdrop of the recommendations made in the ALRC and HREOC Report.

ALRC President Professor Weisbrot said “The anniversary provides a timely opportunity to review the impact of the Report—including the extent of any implementation by the Commonwealth, states or territories—as well as to explore current issues and controversies”.

Articles in this edition of Reform address over a dozen key areas for consideration including:

  • the rights and life chances of Indigenous children;
  • the changes made to the Family Court and the family law system over the last decade—and the positive outcomes for children and young people in family dispute resolution and legal proceedings;
  • the changing legal framework for inter-country adoption;
  • the effectiveness of the legal process in protecting children and young people as consumers;
  • bullying and violence against young people in the workplace; and
  • the legal, social and ethical issues associated with genetic testing of minors.

Reform 92 also explores the progress made by federal Governments since the release of the ALRC’s Report and discusses youth participation in the democratic process and the 2020 Youth Summit; legal regulation of the work of children and young people; and children and the law in the Solomon Islands.

“With our publication Reform, the ALRC seeks to stimulate high quality and constructive discussion and debate, to engender knowledge and understanding and to bring hot issues of law reform to the attention of the community. The opportunity to look back over the last decade at how children have fared within our legal system, to see how far we’ve come and where we still need to go reminds us of one of the most important areas in law reform,” Professor Weisbrot said.

Commissioner-in-charge of Reform 92 ‘Children and Young People’, Professor Rosalind Croucher said the edition included a wide range of legal professionals and judges, academics, reformers and others working in various aspects of the law where there is an intersection with young people.

“We were extremely lucky to have contributors such as the Tom Calma the ATSI Social Justice Commissioner and Race Discrimination Commissioner, Chief Justice Diana Bryant; Justice Susan Kenny, who is also an ALRC Commissioner; and NSW Children’s Commissioner Gillian Calvert amongst our other learned and specialist colleagues.”

Reform also carries articles on the work of the ALRC and of other international and national law reform agencies. The journal Reform is published twice a year, in winter and summer. Views expressed in the journal are those of the authors and are not necessarily the views of the ALRC. Subscription information and articles from selected back issues are available online.

Copies of Reform Issue 92 Children and Young People are available for purchase from the Australian Law Reform Commission.