12 All government agencies should ensure that their advice and complaints services are accessible by children in rural and remote areas through facilities such as freecall telephone hotlines advertised in schools and youth centres, on local radio and the Internet.
13 In developing service delivery standards and implementing its service charter, each federal government agency should have regard to the following principles.
The agency should consult as appropriate with its child clients and with relevant non-government organisations to determine the most effective ways of informing children about available services.
Publicity and information about services and review mechanisms should be directed specifically at young people. This material may be most effective if it is in the form of stickers, comics, posters and specifically designed brochures for distribution through schools and youth centres. The information should also be available by telephone and on the Internet.
Staff should be trained to deal sympathetically with young people and to communicate in age appropriate language. A culture of listening to children should be cultivated. Information and evidence provided by children should be treated with the same degree of seriousness as that provided by adults.
It will often be inappropriate for agencies to rely on written material alone as a means of communicating with children. Wherever possible communication with children should be in person rather than in writing.
Most young people cannot deal with complicated forms and elaborate bureaucratic requirements. Where these processes cannot be avoided or adapted for children, the relevant agency should ensure that children are provided with a support person to assist them to negotiate the process.
Administrative decisions concerning children should be made in a timely manner. Where children are dependent on the provision of services, delay in providing them can put the child at risk. Further, children’s perception of time is such that they may interpret any delay as an indication that their application has been rejected. Where delays in decision making are unavoidable, agencies should contact children to explain the reasons for the delay.
Children should be entitled to have a support person of their choice, such as a parent or community worker, present whenever they are interviewed by a government department or give evidence to a review body concerning an administrative decision.
Except where it is necessary for the protection or well being of the child, government agencies generally should not interview young children. Where younger children are interviewed, including where they are interviewed on a matter relating to their parents, the process should be carefully explained to the child.
14 The temporary exemptions from the training requirement applicable to under 18 recipients of CYA should not be administered so stringently that young people at risk are deprived of income support by unrealistic administrative requirements
Implementation. Centrelink should ensure that all relevant staff are given training in administering these exemptions.
15 Youth Service Units should be established in each region.
Implementation. Centrelink should ensure these units are established as a matter of priority.
16 Models of income support service delivery should be designed specifically for young Indigenous people and young people from non-English speaking backgrounds to take account of cultural differences in family structures and relationships.
Implementation. Centrelink should develop these models in consultation with appropriate community groups and OFC.
17 Models of income support service delivery should be designed specifically for young people living in rural and remote communities.
Implementation. The Minister for Social Security should co-ordinate a federal strategy for service delivery to young people living in rural and remote communities.
18 Evidential requirements, particularly those concerning identification, should be interpreted flexibly for young homeless applicants and should not of themselves bar them from receiving income support.
Implementation. DSS should ensure that eligibility requirements for young homeless applicants comply with this recommendation.
19 Demographic data and data concerning young homeless clients’ race and sexual orientation should be collected by consent to support a better informed and targeted response to youth homelessness. The data should be recorded in a way that preserves young people’s anonymity.
Implementation. All federal, State and Territory departments that provide services to young homeless people should collect this data. The data should be collated by Centrelink.
20 The adequacy of the homeless rate of benefits paid to young people should be assessed regularly to ensure appropriate minimum benefit and rent assistance rates are maintained.
Implementation. The Minister for Social Security should commission surveys on a regular basis to ensure that appropriate minimum rates are fixed.
21 Support programs for homeless young people should be publicised extensively in the youth sector and community.
Implementation. All federal government agencies administering these programs should review the effectiveness of their publicity campaigns.
22 All family services department officers who conduct assessments under the Commonwealth/State Protocol for the case management of homeless children should be briefed on how to interview young gay and lesbian applicants appropriately.
Implementation. All parties to the Protocol should ensure staff are appropriately briefed.
23 The Commonwealth/State Protocol for the case management of homeless children should be amended to provide that homeless children must be assessed by the relevant State or Territory family services department within seven days of making an application for income support.
Implementation. All parties to the Protocol should expedite this change.
24 A Citizenship Information Kit aimed specifically at young people and their guardians should be developed to explain the procedures by which children can obtain certificates of Australian citizenship.
Implementation. DIMA should develop the Kit and advertise it appropriately, targeting Australian communities with high immigrant populations.
25 The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs should investigate the reasons for the significant variations in child visa application processing times as between overseas posts, with a view to ensuring effective, speedy processing of all child visa claims.
26 Provisions in the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) relating to questioning and searching child visa applicants should give them the same protection as the federal Crimes Act 1914 (Cth).
Implementation. The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs should ensure that the necessary amendments are made as soon as possible.
27 A protocol should be developed to resolve immigration problems for children whom a family services department or court has determined are in need of care. In some cases this may mean enabling a child to change or acquire lawful immigration status to allow appropriate supervision of him or her or an alternative family placement.
Implementation. DIMA and State and Territory family services departments should develop this protocol. The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs should ensure any consequential legislative or regulatory changes are made.
28 Guidelines for overseeing and evaluating overseas intra-family adoptions should be developed.
Implementation. DIMA should develop these guidelines in co-operation with State and Territory family services departments and take steps to implement them in legislation or policy as appropriate.
29 The Commonwealth should give priority to ratifying the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption. Immediately prior to the Convention coming into force all relevant DIMA staff should be given training in applying its principles to decision making.
Implementation. The Attorney-Generalshould pursue this issue as a matter of priority.
30 Provisions stating that before granting a visa to a child applicant, the Minister must be satisfied that granting the visa would not prejudice the rights and interests of any other person who has custody or guardianship of, or access to, the child should be redrafted to be consistent with the principles underlying the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).
Implementation. The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs should develop legislation to this effect.
31 Internal review applications by child income support applicants should be taken also to be applications for SSAT review. If internal review is not completed within two weeks, SSAT review should be activated automatically, the case given priority and the review completed within a short time frame.
Implementation. The Minister for Social Security and the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs should develop legislation to this effect.
32 An access and equity strategy should be developed to ensure that children can participate properly in merits review. Publicity material should be prepared specifically for young people explaining merits review procedures.
Implementation. The proposed Administrative Review Tribunal should develop a young people’s access and equity strategy and publicity material aimed specifically at young clients.
33 Directions hearings and preliminary conferences for matters involving young people should include the provision of information directly to young people on tribunal practice, procedure and any evidentiary requirements.
Implementation. The proposed Administrative Review Tribunal should develop practice guidelines to this effect.
34 Merits review procedures should accommodate child applicants and witnesses appropriately. Hearings should be run in an informal and flexible manner. To this end, guidelines should be developed for handling applications by children.
Implementation. The proposed Administrative Review Tribunal should develop these guidelines in consultation with relevant interest groups.
35 The AAT program of using community centres in rural areas as venues for matters involving Indigenous applicants should be extended. These venues could also be used for matters involving child applicants in those areas.
Implementation. The proposed Administrative Review Tribunal should oversee the extension of this program.
36 An advocate with continuing instructions (or ones that have not been countermanded) should be able to pursue an external review application on behalf of a homeless child applicant with whom the advocate has lost contact.
Implementation. The proposed Administrative Review Tribunal should develop a practice direction to this effect.