Many government organisations put laws into action. These organisations may deal with the needs of the people in different ways. Government organisations such as the Department of Social Security (DSS), Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) and Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs often work very closely with children and young people.
Children and education
Education is compulsory in Australia for all children between 6 and 15 years of age (16 years of age in Tasmania). The Commissions would like to hear about whether Australian schools give young people equal access to education. The following sections discuss areas where problems may arise.
Barriers to education.
Barriers to education may include special fees. They stop young people from participating in some activities. Also, differences in school programs may make it difficult for children who move to another state or territory to keep up at the new school.
Issue 5: Do you think difficulties such as these stop children and young people from getting a proper education?
Rights education in schools.
Do you feel that you know enough about your rights as a child or young person?
Issue 6: Where do children and young people learn about human rights? Do schools spend enough time teaching children and young people about their rights?
Children’s participation in curriculum development and school decision making.
Some schools give students a say in what is taught or other decisions that affect them.
Issue 7: Should students have a say in school decision making? If so, how should they have a say?
Punishment and disciplinary measures.
Punishment at school may include suspension, expulsion, exclusion from certain classes or in some schools corporal punishment, for example, being caned.
Issue 8: Should students have a chance to tell their side of the story before they are punished? If so, how can students have a say?
Issue 9: What types of punishment should be allowed? What types should not be allowed? Why?
Violence in schools.
Violence and harassment are seen as problems in some schools. Some young people may be at greater risk from violence or harassment because they are gay or lesbian, from a non-English speaking background or an Aborigine or Torres Strait Islander.
Issue 10: Do you think schools do enough to deal with violence and harassment in schools? What more could be done?
Is there anything else you would like to comment on about children and education?
Children’s income support
The government has programs to help children and young people financially. Most income support programs are run by the Department of Social Security (DSS) or the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET). For example, DSS runs Newstart Allowance, Sole Parent Pension and some services for homeless children. Programs run by DEET include the Youth Training Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy, and the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme.
Issue 11: Do young people have problems in applying for income support? What sorts of problems?
Issue 12: Are young people aware of what can be done if DSS or DEET refuse income support?
Young people and work
Young people may leave school to work full time at 15 years of age (16 in Tasmania). Wage rates for young people are lower than those for adults. Lower rates are meant to reflect a young person’s lower level of experience and encourage employers to give young people jobs. Lower wage rates may also encourage young people to stay at school. However, lower salary levels may make it difficult for young people to meet living expenses. DEET has a range of services to help young people get work.
Issue 13: Do you think young people are treated fairly in the work force? If you were treated unfairly where would you go for help?
Issue 14: Have you used any of the training and employment services run by DEET? Did you find these services helpful? Why or why not?
Many children come to Australia as immigrants. They may enter Australia under the various migration schemes or by seeking refugee status. Children may also apply for residency while on a temporary stay in Australia. They may also be involved in migration procedures as a third party, for example, by giving evidence to authorities. People who are not happy with an immigration decision may complain to the Immigration Review Tribunal. The Refugee Review Tribunal looks at decisions where a person has applied to be a refugee.
Issue 15: Do you have any experience with Australian immigration procedures, Immigration Review Tribunal or the Refugee Review Tribunal? If so, how do you think you were treated?