7.3 There have been many recommendations, both to this Inquiry and elsewhere, about the desirable arrangement of functions for an agency charged with providing advocacy for children. Advocacy incorporates a number of discrete functions:
promoting the interests of children generally to ensure government and agency accountability
monitoring compliance with international obligations
scrutiny of legislation, programs and initiatives
conducting and/or co-ordinating research to promote best practice in relation to children
resolving complaints and conducting inquiries into individual concerns
supporting and assisting particular children to access services or obtain redress for complaints and problems
encouraging the development of structures to enable children and young people to be active participants in the decision making processes affecting their lives.
7.4 A number of models may provide this independent advocacy, including a Children’s Commissioner, a Children’s Ombudsman, a National Office for Children and a Ministry for Children. Indeed, national and international advocacy agencies currently exercise many of these functions in different ways.
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
7.5 HREOC has statutory responsibility for promoting CROC in Australia. It examines existing and proposed laws to ascertain their consistency with children’s rights, advises governments by preparing guidelines for the avoidance of acts or practices which may be inconsistent with children’s rights and has a research and public education role. It also investigates complaints about practices of the Commonwealth that may be inconsistent with children’s rights and may intervene in relevant court proceedings.
Commonwealth, State and Territory Ombudsman’s Offices
7.6 The Commonwealth and all the States and Territories have Ombudsman’s Offices whose role includes investigating children’s complaints about government authorities. The role of the Ombudsman has traditionally been focused on individual complaints rather than systemic issues. However, some Ombudsman’s offices, such as the NSW Ombudsman’s Office, have become involved in broader policy issues. Nevertheless, the central focus of an Ombudsman’s role tends to be individual complaint investigation and resolution.
State and Territory children’s advocacy bodies
7.7 A number of States and Territories have agencies which focus on specific children’s issues, provide policy advice to government, conduct education and awareness programs, research children’s issues and provide advocacy and support to individual children. Most combine monitoring and co-ordination roles with complaints investigation and review. Some also provide a degree of individual advocacy for children.
7.8 In South Australia the Children’s Interest Bureau undertakes public education and provides policy advice to the Office for Families and Children. It is a unit of the Department of Family and Community Services and reports to the Minister. The Bureau was established to monitor and assist in the resolution of problems children have with government authorities. It originally undertook individual and general advocacy for children in a wide range of areas. However, these functions have been curtailed through the removal of specialist child advocacy and the incorporation of the Bureau into the generalist Office for Families and Children. The Bureau is generally acknowledged as having played an important and positive role as an advocate for children in South Australia. Its ability to monitor the Department of Family and Community Services has been hampered by its location within the department it is designed to monitor. The Child Health Council of South Australia also provides a mechanism for systems advocacy on behalf of the best interests of children.
7.9 In the ACT the Community Advocate has specific responsibility to promote the protection of children from abuse and exploitation, to protect their rights and to represent their best interests in relation to government services and before courts and tribunals. The Advocate has the capacity to intervene in departmental decision-making processes. This includes seeking reviews of decisions by the Director of the Family Services Branch and recommending that orders be continued or changed as appropriate. The Advocate has a range of powers including the capacity to access departmental files, investigate complaints and appear before courts and tribunals.
7.10 A Children’s Commission and a Children’s Services Appeals Tribunal were established in 1996 in Queensland. A major part of the Commissioner’s role is to refer information about suspected child abuse to the police and other relevant bodies. Other functions include dealing with complaints about children’s services, promoting best practice in alternate care for children, liaising with other investigative and complaint handling bodies and conducting relevant research. The Children’s Commissioner convenes an Appeals Tribunal to hear complaints from children and adults complaining on their behalf.
7.11 In NSW the Community Services Commission was established under the Community Services (Complaints, Appeals and Monitoring)Act 1993. Its functions include handling complaints from or on behalf of children in care, reviewing the circumstances of individual children in care, co-ordinating a Community Visitors scheme for children in care, advising government about systemic problems, educating children and service providers about relevant matters and advising children of their right to complain.
7.12 In Tasmania a Children’s Commissioner is proposed in the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Bill 1997 (Tas). The primary focus of the Bill is the care and protection system. The functions of the Commissioner include promoting the health, welfare, care, protection and development of children, increasing public awareness of such matters, inquiring generally into and reporting on any matter including any enactment practice or procedure relating to those issues when requested to do so by the Minister, and advising the Minister on these matters. The Bill also provides for the establishment of a Children’s Consultative Council to encourage the active participation of children and young people, reducing the likelihood that the Office of the Children’s Commissioner will be primarily an adult forum.
Individual or non-government advocates
7.13 A number of non-government organisations provide advocacy for children’s interests. The National Children’s and Youth Law Centre provides a national advocacy service for children and publishes discussion papers on various children’s issues. The Youth Advocacy Centre in Queensland, established in 1981, also performs a broad advocacy role. In addition to providing legal advice and representation to young people it has an educative function, assists families and communities to help young people at risk, provides policy advice and lobbies for policy and law reform on behalf of children. The 1995 federal Government Justice Statement provided funding for four specialist children’s legal advocates to provide advice, assistance and representation for children.
7.14 Peer advocacy is young people advocating for and on behalf of each other. AAYPIC is one peer advocacy organisation. AAYPIC, which was established in 1993, is a consumer movement for and by young people who are or have recently been in care. Most of those active in the organisation are aged 10 to 25 years. The national AAYPIC body is supplemented by State branches and regional and local service based groups of young people in care run by young people themselves. This movement of young people has undertaken a wide range of activities to advocate at the systemic and individual level for young people in care. Systemic advocacy has included presentations by young people at national conferences dealing with issues relevant to children in care, contribution to government inquiries such as the Senate Inquiry into Truancy and School Exclusion, participation in national campaigns such as the national child abuse campaign co-ordinated by the National Child Protection Council, contribution to government initiatives such as the Commonwealth Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy and lobbying for government funding. Individual advocacy has included training and skills development programs, organisation of forums for young people to share individual and common experiences of the care system, counselling and advice.
International children’s advocacy bodies
7.15 Sweden has a Children’s Ombudsman with a broad policy, educative and advice role and the power to investigate individual complaints. The Children’s Ombudsman is located in the Social Department, although it relates to government as a whole.
7.16 Denmark has a Children’s Council of three government representatives and five members from non-government organisations. The Council undertakes policy and advocacy work on matters affecting children and operates in a manner similar in many respects to the Children’s Ombudsman in Sweden.
7.17 Norway has a Children’s Ombudsman whose functions include investi-gating individual complaints, recommending changes to legislation or government policy on matters affecting children and providing information and advice on children’s rights issues. In investigating complaints, the Ombudsman has statutory rights of access to records and of entry to children’s institutions. The Ombudsman is supported by an advisory panel of six people with expertise in children’s issues. The Office of the Ombudsman is independent from the Government although its funding is provided by the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs.
7.18 The New Zealand Commissioner for Children combines the Ombudsman role of investigating individual complaints with a broad policy and advocacy role on issues relevant to the rights of children. The functions of the Commissioner include research, education and policy development and the investigation, monitoring, and review of matters relevant to the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989 (NZ) The Office of the Children’s Commissioner is located within the Department of Social Welfare and reports annually to the Minister of Social Welfare and the Parliament.
7.19 England and the USA have very few formal mechanisms for children’s advocacy at a government level. However, in each country, active non-government organisations provide advocacy for children at both the individual and the systemic level.
 eg R Ludbrook Why Australia Needs a Commissioner for Children — Discussion Paper National Children’s and Youth Law Centre Sydney 1994. This report recommended the establishment of a federal Commissioner for Children and identified a number of functions which should be performed by a Commissioner. In February 1992 the SA Children’s Interest Bureau convened a conference to consider ways of giving effect to CROC. The conference called on the federal Government and each of the State and Territory governments to establish under separate Acts of Parliament a Children’s Commissioner and defined the functions of such Commissioners: see J Harvey, U Dolgopol & S Castell-McGregor Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Australia SA Children’s Interest Bureau Adelaide 1993. NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues Report 10 Inquiry into Children’s Advocacy NSW Government Sydney 1996 discussed a number of functions for an advocacy body. Other influential recommendations included those in ALRC Report 70 Child Care for Kids Report ALRC Sydney 1994 recs 31-35; AIFS The Commonwealth’s Role in Preventing Child Abuse AIFS 1994 (unpublished but released); House of Representatives Standing Committee on Community Affairs Report on Aspects of Youth Homelessness AGPS Canberra 1995 recs 112-114; Wood Royal Commission Final Report Volume IV: The Paedophile Inquiry NSW Government Sydney 1997 ch 20. A number of submissions recommended the establishment of an advocacy body: see fn 37 below.
 CROC is a declared instrument under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 (Cth).
 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 (Cth) s 11(1).
 eg NSW Ombudsman Report of the Inquiry into Juvenile Detention Centres NSW Ombudsman Sydney 1996.
 eg SA Children’s Interest Bureau, Community Advocate of the ACT, Qld Children’s Commissioner and NSW Community Services Commission.
 J Redman, Deputy Chairperson SA Children’s Interest Bureau Board Transcript Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Inquiry into the Status of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 4 July 1997 TR 725.
 These areas included care and protection, family law, reproductive technology, environmental planning and school discipline: see S Castell-McGregor ‘Checks and balances — A South Australian perspective’ Paper Summit on Children’s Issues Perth October 1995.
 S Castell-McGregor ‘ Checks and balances — A South Australian perspective’ Paper Summit on Children’s Issues Perth October 1995, 6–7. Castell-McGregor points out that as a result of this there is no longer any provision for child advocates to attend reviews of children in state care.
 id 4. The decision to reduce the functions of the Bureau has been the subject of considerable criticism: see eg NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues Report 10 Inquiry into Children’s Advocacy NSW Government Sydney 1996, 51–52.
 Child Health Council of SA DRP Submission 47.
 Attorney-General’s Dept Annual Report 1994–95 AGPS Canberra 1995, 180. The Office was established under the Children’s Services Act 1986 (ACT) and the Community Advocate Act 1991 (ACT).
 See Child and Youth Advocacy Office of the Community Advocate Canberra. The powers and functions of the ACT Community Advocate are also outlined in NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues Report 10 Inquiry into Children’s Advocacy NSW Government Sydney 1996, 46–47.
 The Commissioner is a statutory appointment: Children’s Commissioner and Children’s Services Appeals Tribunals Act 1996 (Qld) s 5(1).
 Children’s Commissioner and Children’s Services Appeals Tribunals Act 1996 (Qld) s 8(f), (g). The Commissioner receives approximately 100 calls a day: ‘Call for a children’s agency’ (1997) 8(6) Committee Bulletin 8.
 Children’s Commissioner and Children’s Services Appeals Tribunals Act 1996 (Qld) s 8.
 Children’s Commissioner and Children’s Services Appeals Tribunals Act 1996 (Qld) s 8(k). The restricted focus of the Commissioner has been criticised: see J Wight ‘Children’s Commissioner for Queensland’ (1996) (4) Rights Now! 3. The Commissioner’s focus is limited to services provided under Adoption of Children Act 1964 (Qld), the Child Care Act 1991 (Qld), Children’s Services Act 1991 (Qld), Family Services Act 1987 (Qld) and Children’s Commissioner and Children’s Services Appeals Tribunals Act 1996 (Qld) Sch 2.
 The Commission’s aims are ‘…changing the culture, quality and reputation of community services in NSW and empowering the consumers of these services’: NSW Community Services Commission IP Submission 211.
 ibid. See also NSW Community Services Commission The Drift of Children into the Juvenile Justice System: Turning Victims Into Criminals NSW Community Services Commission Sydney 1996.
 Children, Young Persons and Their Families Bill 1997 (Tas) cl 79.
 Children, Young Persons and Their Families Bill 1997 (Tas) cl 81.
 Youth Advocacy Centre IP Submission 120. See also NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues Report 10 Inquiry into Children’s Advocacy NSW Government Sydney 1996, 47-49.
 Attorney-General’s Dept The Justice Statement Attorney-General’s Dept Canberra 1995. Proposals for specialist legal advocates are made at recs 85-87.
 See NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues Report 10 Inquiry into Children’s Advocacy NSW Government Sydney 1996.
 An example of peer advocacy in the international context is the ‘Article 12’ Committee in the UK.
 Friends of AAYPIC summer edition 1995–96.
 The Ombudsman promotes and monitors consistency with CROC and provides the Swedish Government with an annual report. The report is also used to inform the Government’s report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
 There are also various non-government organisations in Sweden that undertake a significant amount of advocacy work for children. The most notable of these is the Radda Barnen or Save the Children, Sweden. This organization carries out advocacy and policy work on a wide range of issues including juvenile justice, child abuse and refugee children. Its work includes monitoring and disseminating information about CROC and working with members of parliament to ensure that its principles are reflected in legislation affecting children.
 Ministry of Children and Family Affairs & Ministry of Foreign Affairs The Rights of the Child: Norway’s Initial Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child Ministry of Children and Family Affairs Oslo 1993, 18-19.
 See Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 (NZ) s 411. During 1994–95, 350 complaints were registered with the Children’s Commissioner in areas such as education, health, police and court matters, and family law issues: Office of the Commissioner for Children Annual Report for the Year Ended 30 June 1995 Office of the Commissioner for Children Wellington 1995.
 NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues Report 10 Inquiry into Children’s Advocacy NSW Government Sydney 1996, 43–46 citing submission 55 from L O’Reilly, NZ Commissioner for Children.
 eg the UK has the National Children’s Bureau and the Children’s Rights Office which monitors the application of CROC in the UK. The Children’s Legal Centre provides telephone advice and information to young people on a wide range of issues such as family law, juvenile justice, school issues, child abuse and other matters. The USA relies on Children’s Rights Incorporated, the American Bar Association Centre on Children and the Law, the Child Welfare League of America and the Children’s Defence Fund. The role of these organisations is described in more detail in NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues Report 10 Inquiry into Children’s Advocacy NSW Government Sydney 1996, 39–43. Other international initiatives include an Ombudsman for the City of Jerusalem appointed in 1986. In Costa Rica a similar body, El Defensia de la Infancia, partly funded by UNICEF was established in 1987. The German Parliamentary Commission on Children’s Affairs was established in 1988. Its main function is to provide comments on federal laws affecting children. The Kinder und Jugendanwalt in Vienna has had has an advocacy role in relation to the welfare and education systems since 1991. Many of these initiatives are described in detail in American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law Establishing Ombudsman Programs for Children and Youth: How Government’s Responsiveness to its Young Citizens Can Be Improved American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law Washington 1993. See also R Ludbrook Why Australia Needs a Commissioner for Children — Discussion Paper National Children’s and Youth Law Centre Sydney 1994, 7.