Funding implications


6.48 Australian governments are already funding many of the functions to be undertaken by OFC. The problem is the funding is spread too widely and too thinly. The system is unco-ordinated and inefficient. The establishment of OFC would not entail high levels of additional federal spending. Indeed, OFC and the associated Taskforce would rationalise many functions currently undertaken by other bodies. Some idea of the likely cost of the Taskforce and OFC is set out below, based upon funding for bodies performing similar functions. Detailed costings are provided in Appendix C.

Comparable bodies to the Taskforce

6.49 The Youth Homeless Taskforce is similar to the Taskforce on Children and the Legal Process envisaged by the Inquiry.[45] That Taskforce has an $8 million budget for a two year program. However, much of its funding is dedicated to administering the Youth Homelessness Pilot Program. As the Taskforce on Children and the Legal Process would not be undertaking program administration, its budget could be significantly less than that of the Youth Homelessness Taskforce.

6.50 The Taskforce on Children and the Legal Process would be closer in function to the MCEETYA Youth Taskforce. The MCEETYA Taskforce identifies priority issues, undertakes research and develops policy and strategies to implement policies. The Taskforce held two meetings during 1995–96 and submitted a report and forward plan to the July 1996 MCEETYA meeting.[46] There are no available costing figures on this Taskforce.

Comparable bodies to OFC

6.51 The Youth Bureau currently undertakes policy monitoring, research and analysis and service delivery functions which seek to protect the interests of young people between the ages of 12 and 25. The strategies in its Draft Business Plan include research and analysis, the development of links with other agencies and the development of services and programs to assist young people to make successful transitions between home and independent living and between school, further education and employment.

6.52 Some of the policy analysis, research and liaison functions that we envisage OFC performing are presently carried out by the Youth Bureau. The Bureau also co-ordinates a number of programs which are relevant to OFC. The Bureau and OFC cater for different age groups. The Bureau caters for young people between 12 and 25. OFC would cater for children, that is, those under 18. Some of the Bureau’s policy and research work is also portfolio-related. Accordingly, functions relating to the 18 to 25 age group and portfolio responsibilities of education and employment will remain with the Bureau.

6.53 As well as general policy and research functions, the Bureau also co-ordinates a number of programs, part of which could be transferred to OFC. These include

    • the NYARS which undertakes research into current social, political and economic issues relating to young people and provides federal, State and Territory Governments with information to assist in the development of youth policy

    • the National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies based at the University of Tasmania, which collects and disseminates data on research, publications and conferences on youth issues and

    • the Rural Youth Information Service within the program administration section of DEETYA which is designed to improve the access of young people in rural areas to information and advice on issues, with an emphasis on employment, education and training.

6.54 The Bureau employs approximately 17 staff in policy areas, eight of whom are engaged in whole of government co-ordination and nine in policy work relating to portfolio responsibilities.[47] Expenditure in 1995–96 on programs covering co-ordination, research and consultation functions amounted to $1.3 million — the Rural Youth Information Service ($500 000), the National Youth Affairs Research Scheme ($100 000), the production of youth publications ($500 000) and the National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies ($200 000).[48]

6.55 The Office of Status of Women within PM&C provides policy advice to the Prime Minister and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women. In developing policy, it has regular contact with federal, State and Territory Ministers and their advisers, stakeholders and specific interest networks. It conducts research, produces publications and helps disseminate information about the federal Government’s decisions in these areas.[49] The Office of Status of Women with 27 staff is larger than OFC would be. Its expenditure in 1995–96 was approximately $4 664 000.[50]

6.56 The NSW Ethnic Affairs Commission is also a comparable body. The primary functions of the Ethnic Affairs Commission are to provide advice to the NSW Government on ethnic affairs, create a link between government and community and provide relevant services to the community. The Ethnic Affairs Commission is a permanent, statutorily-based government authority. In addition to the Commission itself, it has three regional advisory committees, a customer council and a grants advisory committee. Its activities include significant program delivery, particularly the provision of a 24-hour interpreting service.[51] It has 94 staff, including 14 part-time Commissioners and a full-time Chairperson. Expenditure on operating expenses in 1995–96 was $8 445 000.[52] Once again, this body is considerable larger than OFC would be and it has significant additional service delivery functions.

Resources and infrastructure

6.57 We envisage OFC operating in two stages. In the first stage (2 years) its functions will be divided between servicing the Taskforce and undertaking general policy co-ordination of agencies across the whole of government. In relation to the Taskforce, OFC would be responsible for meetings and conferences, building networks, research and writing for the Taskforce and commissioning research from other bodies. During this period it should have approximately 8 expert and experienced staff members. OFC and the Taskforce together would cost around $2.4 million a year.[53]

6.58 In the second stage, OFC would assume responsibility for the full range of implementing, monitoring and co-ordinating functions recommended.[54] At full capacity, it would have a staff of approximately 13 people. It would cost around $3.3 million a year.[55]

6.59 Government agencies currently undertaking functions relating to children could transfer funds as off-sets to OFC and the Taskforce. The DEETYA Youth Bureau has been discussed already. The Human Rights Branch in the Attorney-General’s Department is responsible for preparing reports under various international human rights instruments, including CROC.[56] Those functions relating to CROC would be carried out by OFC.

6.60 The Social Policy Division within PM&C provides advice to the Prime Minister and develops policy in relation to youth affairs. In 1995–96 it provided support for the Review of the Australian National Training Authority Agreement and for the development of the Youth Homeless Pilot Program. It also has responsibility for co-ordinating and monitoring a pilot project for young offenders announced in the 1997–98 budget. ATSIC and the Youth Bureau are to run the program.[57] Research and policy co-ordination tasks performed by the Social Policy Division in relation to children would move to the OFC.

6.61 The Inquiry recommends that any costs of the Summit, Taskforce and establishment of the OFC and its State and Territory counterparts be a charge against the Constitutional Centenary Foundation Fund. Prominence might be given by Heads of Government to announce this as an investment in Australia’s future.

Recommendation 2 A small Taskforce on Children and the Legal Process should be established on the conclusion of the National Summit, comprising representatives from relevant federal, State and Territory departments nominated by the Summit, representatives from non-government organisations, specialist academics, practitioners, young people and parents.

Implementation. The Prime Minister should convene the Taskforce, with the Chair to be nominated and agreed upon during the Summit.

  • An Office for Children (OFC) should be established within PM&C. In the first two years of its operation, OFC’s responsibilities should focus on the provision of secretariat services to the Summit and the Taskforce on Children and the Legal Process. Upon completion of the Taskforce, an expanded OFC should assume continuing co-ordination and monitoring responsibilities. In particular, it should

  • provide an annual report to Parliament on the status of children in Australia

  • monitor performance of international obligations to children, particularly CROC, and co-ordinate the preparation of reports under article 44 of CROC to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

  • provide leadership and co-ordination in the preparation and implementation of national standards in areas of law recommended in this report, in consultation with the States and Territories

  • monitor new legislation, programs and initiatives for compliance with CROC and national standards

  • encourage and assist federal departments to incorporate the principles of CROC into their policies, programs and practice

  • co-ordinate the development of models of best practice for dealing with child consumers of government services or programs, including best practice guidelines for grievance and complaints handling procedures for young people

  • advise governments on the most effective use of funds appropriated by Parliament for expenditure in relation to children

  • undertake research, in conjunction with State and Territory agencies and the ABS, on children’s involvement in legal and administrative processes and the effects of those processes on children

  • liaise with federal complaint handling bodies relevant to children, particularly HREOC and the Commonwealth Ombudsman

  • liaise with HREOC and State and Territory children’s advocacy and complaints bodies throughout Australia

  • provide reports on its own initiative to federal Ministers, Ministerial Councils and Parliament dealing with matters of concern for children as and when they arise

  • assist in the development of a network of grassroots advocates for children by accrediting, training and providing information to advocates

  • encourage and facilitate public debate and community awareness on matters relating to children

  • consult with relevant interest and community groups and with children and young people to determine the most appropriate strategies for improving conditions for children.

Implementation. The Prime Minister should take the necessary steps to establish OFC within PM&C.

[45] See para 6.6.

[46] DEETYA Annual Report 1995–96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 160.

[47] The Bureau currently has 50 staff in the National Office and 40 in the States and Territories.

[48] DEETYA Annual Report 1995–96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 160–61.

[49] Office of Status of Women Internet Home Page — current as at 30 July 1997.

[50] PM&C Annual Report 1995–96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 53. This figure represents the total of running and other program costs of $5 583 000 less an adjustment of $7 000 and less $910 000 in grants to national women’s organisations.

[51] Ethnic Affairs Commission Annual Report 1995–96 NSW Government Sydney 1996, 9–12.

[52] id 84. This figure comprises employee related expenses of $4 466 000 and other operating expenses of $3 979 000.

[53] See appendix C for detailed costings.

[54] See para 6.43.

[55] See appendix C for detailed costings.

[56] Attorney-General’s Dept Annual Report 1995–96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 176.

[57] The pilot project for young offenders was announced in the 1997–98 budget. It has been allocated $1 million for 1997–98: Treasurer & Minister for Finance Budget Strategy and Outlook 1997–98 Budget Paper No 1 AGPS Canberra 1997, 4.126.