1. Introduction

What is this inquiry about?

The Australian Law Reform Commission and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (the Commissions) have been asked to advise Parliament about children and young people and the legal process. In this Issues Paper, we tell you about some current laws that affect you. In exchange, we hope that you will tell us your experiences and concerns regarding your rights and the law. The final date to respond to us is 31 July 1996.

The law affects children and young people in many different ways

Laws don’t just affect young people when they go to court or deal with the police. For example, laws regulate activities and programs at school; what you can buy or use as a consumer; and perhaps where you will live if your parents separate or if you cannot live with your parents.

These laws are not all made by the same parliament in Australia. Laws can be made by the federal parliament in Canberra or by each state and territory parliament depending on the area of law. As a result, the laws in each state and territory are generally different.

In addition, there is international law. This includes international conventions or treaties. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed by Australia in 1990. It contains the basic human rights of children and young people. The Australian federal government has promised that these rights will be respected in Australia.

Children and young people with special needs

Some groups of young people have special needs and may require particular assistance. We would particularly like to hear from people in these groups. They include children and young people who are:

  • from a non-English speaking background,
  • refugees
  • living with a disability
  • gay or lesbian
  • from rural or remote areas.