8. Introduction to Part B

8.1 Like adults, children function within the legal system. Their involvement in administrative processes, whether as citizens, students or users of government services, is defined by law. Even processes that may appear to be purely administrative interact with legal processes in significant ways for children.

8.2 Children’s contact with administrative and legal processes often operates along a continuum. Consultations confirmed that for many children there are clear links between their treatment when seeking income support, in school and as consumers and their developmental difficulties. The outcome for many is involvement in care and protection and juvenile justice processes. Empirical data, anecdotal evidence and individual submissions revealed a high degree of correlation, for example, between school exclusion and involvement in the juvenile justice system.[1] It may be possible to prevent many children from coming into adverse contact with this more punitive aspect of the legal system if suitable administrative procedures and support mechanisms are in place.

8.3 Part B opens with Chapter 9, Administrative decision making — service delivery for children. The Inquiry makes recommendations that federal government departments have appropriate procedures for dealing effectively with young clients. The difficulties children face when using income support and immigration processes and review mechanisms are used as case studies to illustrate the importance of appropriate service delivery standards.

8.4 Chapter 10, Children in education, looks at the education system where children can build on the understanding of their rights and responsibilities that they first develop in their families. School is generally also the first time that children experience formal disciplinary procedures. The way these disciplinary processes work can have significant implications for the way children interact with other legal processes.

8.5 The Inquiry’s terms of reference require us to consider the appropriateness and effectiveness of the legal process in protecting children and young people as consumers. Chapter 11, Children as consumers, evaluates and makes recommendations to improve the regulatory and legislative mechanisms designed to protect children as consumers of products, financial services, media services and advertising.

[1] See para 10.62.