In 1987, Prime Minister Bob Hawke famously proclaimed "by 1990, no Australian child will be living in poverty". Nearly 30 years on, the promise is a distant memory, with a new report claiming one in six Australian kids -- more than 600,000 children -- currently live below the poverty line in Australia.
The CRC25 Australian Child Rights Progress Report, released Friday, shared the shocking statistic. The report -- compiled by the Australian Child Rights Taskforce, UNICEF Australia and the National Children's and Youth Law Centre -- comes more than 25 years since Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which included the provision that children have the right to "a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development".
The report outlines that we are falling very, very short on that front.
Australia is not the lucky country for many children
In a foreword to the report, Alastair Nicholson, the chair of Children's Rights International, wrote he was dismayed that Australia had not taken greater steps to embed the spirit of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in domestic law.
"As a result, Australian Governments have consistently flouted the guiding principles of the CRC and other international instruments," Adrian Graham, CEO of UNICEF Australia, wrote, adding that the report "is not comfortable reading for Australians".
The statistics are stark and shocking:
- 603,000 children in Australia living below the poverty line or 1 in 6 Australian children, nearly 18 per cent
- 9.3 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are living in poverty, compared to 12.4 per cent of non- indigenous children
- School retention rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students remain considerably lower than non-indigenous school students.
- In 1990 there were three per 1,000 children in out of home care. In 2014 this had grown to 8.1 per 1,000 children.
- Of young people who have been homeless, 80 percent have a mental disability and 61 percent have a physical disability
The report takes Organisation of Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) definiton of poverty, which is "households earning less than 50 per cent of median household income."
The statistics focusing on indigenous children are particularly eye-opening:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for 25 per cent of the homeless population, but just 2.5 per cent of the general population
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up three per cent of the Australian population, but 23 per cent of those accessing specialist homelessness services in 2014–15
- The representation of Indigenous people aged 10 – 17 years in detention increased from 19 times the rate of non-Indigenous young people in 2011 to 26 times in 2015.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 9.2 times more likely to be in out of home care than non-Indigenous children.
- Aboriginal Children make up 5.5 per cent of all Australian children, yet comprise 35 per cent of the care population.
- 69.9 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are in pre-school, compared with 88.7 per cent of non-Indigenous children.
The report's authors make almost 100 recommendations for government to address the issues, with the first being the creation of a federal ministry for children and youth issues, and the establishment of a committee to oversee the further implementation of the CRC.
"Children living in poverty have less access to both primary and specialist health services than the general population, higher levels of contact with the criminal justice system and greater exposure to domestic violence. Children living in poverty are also more likely to be removed from their families and placed into care arrangements," Graham said.
"The well-being of children should be shaped by sound leadership and policy choices. The Australian Child Rights Progress Report is a clear reminder that Australia must place equity at the heart of our agenda for children, with the idea that no child should be left behind. The Taskforce calls on the Australian Government to adopt a comprehensive national policy agenda for children that include measures to ensure that all children growing up in Australia have a decent quality of life."
To read the full report, click here.