7. Advocacy

4 HREOC should be resourced to establish a specialist children’s rights unit to undertake broad, national systemic advocacy on behalf of children.

Implementation. The federal Attorney-General should provide the necessary funds.

5 The Commonwealth Ombudsman should ensure complaints processes are suitably adapted for children. It should incorporate the principles enumerated in recommendation 13. The Ombudsman, HREOCand OFC should develop links to ensure the co-operative exchange of information to promote best practice for administrative processes in relation to children.

Implementation. The Commonwealth Ombudsman should provide information to HREOC and OFC in relation to any systemic problems for children that become apparent. Information should be collected and provided to HREOC and OFC on a regular basis concerning the numbers of child complainants, types of complaints and results. HREOC and OFC should consult regularly with, and provide information and advice about research and systemic issues to, the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

6 Each State and Territory should ensure that there are appropriate mechanisms, vested in either newly established or existing bodies, to

    • handle complaints by or on behalf of children concerning the conduct of that State’s or Territory’s authorities including conduct of employees and omissions or failures to act by authorities

    • advocate children’s, or particular groups of children’s, interests at a policy level within government

    • plan and co-ordinate children’s policies and initiatives at State and Territory level

    • liaise with OFC, HREOC, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and individual advocates for children, as well as relevant non-government organisations

    • provide OFC with an annual report on outcome indicators of programs and initiatives for children that receive federal funding

    • provide OFC with information on systemic matters of concern for children as necessary.

Implementation. States and Territories should be encouraged through COAG to establish such bodies or units. The relevant bodies should establish links with other similar bodies.

7 State and Territory children’s advocacy and complaints bodies should operate on the basis of principles emunerated at recommendation 13.

8 State and Territory children’s advocacy and complaints bodies should undertake access and awareness campaigns directed to young people, particularly those young people who are most likely to require assistance including children who have English language or literacy difficulties, who are outside the education system or who are in the juvenile justice or care and protection systems.

9 A network of grassroots, community or peer advocates for children, drawn from existing informal advocates in all cities and major regional centres of Australia, should be established and a system of accreditation for child advocates developed by OFC.OFC should ensure communication and liaison within this network at national, State and Territory levels. OFC should co-ordinate training programs on legal issues, communication with children and negotiation skills. OFC should provide advocates with information on the network and regularly updated regional contact lists.

Implementation. OFC should co-ordinate the development of this network, initially by inviting applications for accreditation as an advocate and developing training programs and information.

10 The existence and role of the network of advocates should be publicised particularly to those who are most likely to need the assistance of an advocate, including children who have English language or literacy difficulties, those who are outside the education system and those who are in the juvenile justice or care and protection systems.

Implementation. OFC should co-ordinate this publicity.

11 A national toll-free telephone advice line for children should be provided. This may involve utilisation of existing telephone advice services for children. It may best be established as a national network with offices in each capital city. The advice line should form an integral part of the advocacy network and provide suitable referrals to the network wherever it appears a child is in need of advocacy.

Implementation. OFC should commission the establishment of such an advice line to be funded by the Department of Health and Family Services.