Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security
05/08/2015
Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015

GILLESPIE, Dr Norman, Chief Executive Officer, UNICEF Australia

LAMOIN, Ms Amy, Chief Technical Adviser, UNICEF Australia

Evidence was taken via teleconference—

Committee met at 08:14

CHAIR ( Mr Tehan ): I declare open this public hearing of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. This is the second of two planned public hearings for the committee's inquiry into the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015. These are public proceedings, and the committee prefers that all evidence be given in public, but witnesses have the right to request to be heard in private session. The committee may also determine that certain evidence should be heard in private session. If a witness objects to answering a question, they should state the ground for that objection and the committee will consider the matter.

I welcome representatives of UNICEF Australia. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence on oath, I remind witnesses that this hearing is a legal proceeding of parliament and warrants the same respect as proceedings of the House itself. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard. Do you wish to make some introductory remarks before we proceed to questions?

Dr Gillespie : Yes please. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee. We are very appreciative of this early extension to the busy schedule. UNICEF has, for almost 70 years, worked to promote and realise the rights of children worldwide, particularly the most vulnerable and exploited. Our mandate comes from the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which I will make reference to in my comments. In that treaty, article 38 explicitly refers to the protection of children affected by armed conflict. I wish to focus on the special circumstances of children caught up in, or associated with, armed conflict and terrorism. It is an area in which UNICEF has considerable practical experience.

Children and young people are both targets and tools of war and terrorism. The increasing scale of exploitation of children and young people—both girls and boys—by armed forces or groups is of the deepest concern to UNICEF. A core part of our work is to seek the release of these children; their rehabilitation through caring for their mental and physical wellbeing; and, eventually, their reintegration into society as positive citizens. As recently as the end of 2014, UNICEF successfully negotiated the demobilisation and repatriation of some 3,000 child soldiers from armed groups in South Sudan.

UNICEF supports legitimate efforts by governments to preserve national security, but we are concerned to ensure that responses are appropriate and are not inconsistent with the fundamental rights of the child, including best interest as a primary consideration. Consequently, UNICEF Australia holds serious concerns regarding the Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill in its present form, which, in our view, allows for the arbitrary removal of children's citizenship. In doing so, it neglects to take into account the special needs and the rights of children in both process and outcome, as laid down in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Primarily, this bill is substantially deficient in treating children and young people who have been radicalised or associated with armed groups as, first and foremost, children. To adopt this approach profoundly changes the perspective towards the involvement of children in armed conflict as being fundamentally a child protection issue.

An estimated 300,000 children worldwide are currently directly involved in armed conflict. Sophisticated online recruitment strategies are contributing to this high number. What is not sufficiently acknowledged is that approximately 40 per cent of this group are girls. Children are often recruited as fighters, human shields, porters, cooks and messengers; the most alarming is the trend to recruit or abduct girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced marriage. At worst, children are identified, targeted, indoctrinated, recruited, desensitised to violence and then deployed to commit atrocities. Understanding this in terms of exploitation should underpin our responses to how we deal with children involved in armed conflict, regardless of whether or not their association appears to be voluntary.

Similarly, it should be inconceivable that a child should suffer very serious consequences in relation to his or her citizenship on the basis of conduct of an adult parent. The International Criminal Court has recognised that the concept of informed consent does not exist for children associated with armed forces or groups. It has further recognised that a child cannot be punished on the basis of the criminal conduct of a parent. In our view, measures that punish or further isolate already vulnerable children will fail both the individual child and any national security efforts. By doing so, we are simply building a richer recruitment pool for extremist groups. Those same children whose citizenship is cancelled today are children that UNICEF will be working with tomorrow somewhere else. In UNICEF's view, the best option for children associated with armed conflict is a safe return, which means demobilisation, psychosocial support, re-education, rehabilitation and, eventually, reintegration. While the recovery process is intensive, it is the best success measure to prevent children being re-recruited. UNICEF carries out this work globally with considerable success.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically refers, in article 38, to protection of children affected by armed conflict and, in article 39, the rehabilitation of child victims. Additionally, articles 6 and 7 of the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict of 2002 requires state parties to promote the demobilisation, the provision of physical and psychological recovery, and the social reintegration of persons used in hostilities. UNICEF points out that the bill as it stands does not reflect these commitments.

In summary, UNICEF Australia is concerned that the bill is an inappropriate and arguably ineffective tool to address the complex realities of children involved with armed groups and terrorism. UNICEF Australia urges the committee to review the bill in the light of seeking to strike an appropriate balance so that safety and security can be pursued within a framework that respects the rights of children in particular to protection against exploitation and abuse. UNICEF Australia emphasises that ceasing or revoking a child's citizenship is inconsistent with the rights of the child, and consequently we recommend the bill not be passed as drafted. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. We will go to questions.

Mr RUDDOCK: I ask you this question in the context of the arguments you have put. I am empathetic to having regard to the rights of children, but the one right you have not addressed—and I wonder how you see it being addressed in context—is the right of a child to have a relationship with its parents. Would that mean that you would be treating terrorists whose citizenship you may want to revoke differently on the basis of whether or not they had a child?

Dr Gillespie : I think again we look through the eyes of the child, and that relationship, of course, in the very first instance of being born, is to have a family and to be cared for by loving parents. However, if that develops into an area where the child itself is being exploited through dangerous indoctrination, then we have to treat the child as separately in those circumstances and look after their welfare first and foremost.

Mr RUDDOCK: Thank you. That clarifies it for me.

Senator GALLAGHER: Thank you very much for your submission. Throughout your submission you argue that the bill does not meet Australia's international obligations to children. Could you expand on that and also—you touched on this a bit in your opening statement—on what changes or amendments you believe could be made to meet those obligations in this bill?

Dr Gillespie : Of course. I will ask Amy to tackle that one.

Ms Lamoin : We have some broad concerns about the bill and its compliance in relation to human rights. Those concerns relate to both adults and children, as outlined in the submission—for example, access to a fair hearing, access to the courts for reasonable scrutiny around decision making, and for people to be provided with information regarding their cases where there is ministerial discretion to cancel citizenship. There are those broad and general concerns in relation to the proposed bill. In addition to that, we have specific concerns in relation to children. The bill does not factor in the best interests of children and in fact does not set out how decisions would be made in relation to children's best interests, how any kind of criteria would be considered for the specific cases of children who may have associations with designated terrorist groups. That is a particular concern for us as well.

I think we have actually outlined in our submission the specific changes we would like to see. One of them particularly references that the bill should be amended to include general obligations to take into account the best interests of children as the primary consideration in all decisions affecting children that come under the scope of the bill. We have also suggested that measures, to be truly effective, need to consider prevention versus a punitive approach. To that end, we recognise that the Australian government is already doing some good work in relation to funding some community education and some counter-terrorism measures, but we would go further and say that the Australian government should consider actually resourcing rehabilitation and reintegration programs to children associated with armed groups and similarly—wherever possible—for their parents, so we can have some regard to family separation.

Senator GALLAGHER: Yesterday we heard from some witnesses that it is a little unclear how the bill applies to children under the age of 10. I think you touched on this in your submission a little, around paragraph 5.3, where you draw to the committee's attention how the Criminal Code interacts with the explanatory memorandum. Could you talk a bit further on that and what your view on that is.

Ms Lamoin : I can respond to that. It is actually not very clear how the Criminal Code would apply. In specific terms, there are lots of questions in relation to the age cohort from 10 to 14 years. We know that under 10 the Criminal Code will not necessarily apply but, for the cohort aged 10 to 14, it will apply if there is enough evidence to suggest that children are aware that what they have done is wrong.

I have some very serious concerns around how that assessment will be made in practical terms, and how there will be some level of scrutiny and fairness around that process. In particular, if a child happens to be overseas at the time that consideration is being made under the bill, how that assessment would be made is a very practical question, for example. Also, would there be existing expertise—so in addition to the process, how will expertise be incorporated to make sure that there is a thorough consideration of the situation of the child and whether that child actually has an understanding that what they are doing is wrong? I guess my concern, broadly, in relation to this is that what we know, based on global evidence, is that where children become involved with terrorist groups and with armed forces they really do not understand what they are becoming involved with; what happens to them next; what they are likely to be exposed to; the expectations; the amount of violence they will both witness and potentially be involved in; the kind of social disconnection that results; and they are certainly not familiar with or aware of the lifelong consequences that follow all of this. That just outlines my broad concern.

I would also suggest that, beyond the 10- to 14-year age cohort, we would share our concerns right up to children who are aged under 18 years, keeping in mind that children have an evolving capacity, depending on their specific circumstances and a whole range of other factors. That has to be taken into firm consideration when we are assessing their specific case.

Senator GALLAGHER: I am not sure if you will be able to answer this, but I would be interested if you are. Obviously, Western countries are dealing with the issue of terrorism more broadly across their statute books, and some countries have dealt with the issue of citizenship a bit differently to what this bill proposes. Are you aware of any other law or proposed law that would deal with children in this way as set out in the bill?

Ms Lamoin : I am aware of similar measures to this proposed bill being taken in other country contexts. I have to say that my view is that Australia is taking a particularly severe approach to this. And I have to be very clear when I say that UNICEF's view on this is that you can never effectively address this issue through using this kind of administrative approach and what could be called a punitive approach. That is not how you will solve this problem. I wish there was an easy solution or a fast solution to what is an incredibly complex problem that presents incredible lifelong harms for children. But we know, based on global experience, that the best preventive action you can take is to have solid ongoing community education, good antidiscrimination laws and strong compliance with human rights and to try to ensure that children are not necessarily isolated from the broader community.

That is one of the most important preventive measures you can take, along with intercultural dialogue and looking at broader community cohesion. Where children are recruited to and spend time in contact with terrorist groups, you can certainly cancel their citizenship. But, I guess from a selfish perspective, while the Australian government or other governments may choose to revoke citizenship then that is still, if you have a global mandate, something UNICEF will be working on in other countries that, I should add, are less equipped to support the child, rehabilitate the child and educate that child to make them a productive global citizen as such. So you are essentially shifting that child and the responsibilities associated with that child. And to some degree there are threats associated with that child, because they have been in touch with radicalised or terrorist groups. We are then just shifting the threat. So we see it as a very ineffective tool and see this proposed bill as a particularly severe form.

Mr DREYFUS: I wonder whether you could give me some background about UNICEF. I saw in your submission that you noted that, regrettably, some 300,000 children globally are currently directly involved in armed conflict, with approximately 40 per cent of them being girls. UNICEF—and I ask for your description—works, to the extent that it can, with those children who are involved in armed conflict but also of course with children throughout the world who are threatened in any number of other ways. Is that right?

Dr Gillespie : That is correct.

Mr DREYFUS: One imagines—and you would not be able to say—that at least some of the 300,000 children globally who are involved in armed conflict might be Australian citizens and, if they are Australian citizens, might also be dual citizens.

Dr Gillespie : That is potentially true, yes.

Mr DREYFUS: So, potentially, we already have some Australian children who are citizens who are potentially covered by the proposed law in this bill.

Ms Lamoin : We assume that is potentially correct. We do not have any specific information or detail of children of foreign fighters or children involved in armed groups overseas at the moment and their citizenship status—whether they do have dual citizenship—but it is entirely plausible.

Mr DREYFUS: UNICEF has provided the committee—and I thank you for it—with a detailed 25-page submission. I want to go right to the end of it. The essential proposition UNICEF is putting to this committee is that, because of all of the significant human rights concerns you have identified at some length in the submission, the bill should not be passed in its current form.

Dr Gillespie : That is correct.

Mr DREYFUS: But then you go on, at pages 24 and 25, with, in effect, four other recommendations, which I take it proceed on the basis that if this committee does not take your recommendation that the bill not be passed—and even if the committee were to recommend to the government that the bill not be passed and the government decides to proceed anyway—you are proposing that there should be some substantial modifications to the bill.

Dr Gillespie : That is correct, Senator. We are trying to be pragmatic.

Mr DREYFUS: I will do a bit of explaining here on behalf of Mr Ruddock and myself. We are not senators; neither is Mr Tehan, nor Mr Nikolic. There are a number of senators on the committee, including, as you have correctly identified, Senator Gallagher, and Senator Fawcett is with us. But Mr Scott, Mr Ruddock, Mr Tehan, Mr Nikolic and myself are members of the House of Representatives.

Mr NIKOLIC: For the record, I am not personally offended by the title!

Mr DREYFUS: No, neither am I; I am just trying to be precise. Like Mr Ruddock, I would thank you for the promotion! Anyway, going to the detail, you have said in recommendation 2:

That the Bill not be passed without a general obligation to take into account the best interests of children as a primary consideration in all decisions that affect them, including potential family separation.

Is it right to say that the bill in its present form is almost entirely silent, even by reference—as it does make reference to other acts—in relation to children?

Ms Lamoin : Yes, we would agree with that statement, and, where there is reference to children, there is still a real vagueness in relation to what the bill could potentially mean for children. There is not a level of adequate detail.

Mr DREYFUS: We see in a note form—a relatively unusual drafting style, but sometimes you see it—included in the text of the bill at, for example, 33AA(5):

A child of the person may also cease to be an Australian citizen: see section 36.

That is, of the existing Australian Citizenship Act. We see the same note below proposed section 35(1)(c), and we see the same note below proposed section 35A(1), as Note 2. But beyond that, there is not reference to children in this bill, is there?

Ms Lamoin : No, there is no reference to children in the bill beyond that. Again, we would restate more broadly that section 36 is entirely problematic in relation to children and children's rights.

Mr DREYFUS: That brings me to recommendation 4 of your submission. You have made a recommendation there dealing not with an actual provision of the bill that is before the committee—and I do not intend this as a criticism; I am going to explore this with you—about the existing section 36 of the Australian Citizenship Act, which is not in itself amended by the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill that we have before us but is a provision that has been there in its present form since 2007 but was there before in earlier versions of the citizenship legislation—

Ms Lamoin : Sorry to interrupt; I just want to note that the Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly criticised that section. It has always been seen as potentially problematic and now is seen as more problematic.

Mr DREYFUS: I am aware of those repeated recommendations about section 36, and this is a longstanding concern of UNICEF about section 36. Do I take it that what has prompted you to renew this call for section 36 to be amended to comply with Australia's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child is in part not just because it has been a longstanding concern of UNICEF but because if this current bill were to become law it would be likely that we would have a considerably expanded number of revoked citizenships in Australia?

Ms Lamoin : That is absolutely correct—

Dr Gillespie : That is right.

Ms Lamoin : And while obviously we cannot guess at very specific numbers, we imagine that they could potentially be very considerable.

Mr DREYFUS: We have been told that there has never been a revocation of citizenship under section 35—the current section 35 of the Citizenship Act—and approximately 16 in total in the entire history of the citizenship legislation for the two existing discretionary revocation provisions that follow a conviction, namely a conviction for fraud in the obtaining of naturalisation or a conviction for an offence committed before naturalisation but in respect of which the conviction was recorded after. That is a total of 16. If this bill becomes law, it is likely to go up very substantially and pretty quickly beyond that 16 over the entire history of the legislation since 1948 to become at least in the dozens and possibly in the hundreds. Is that right?

Ms Lamoin : That is entirely our view, and I would not be surprised if that is potentially higher, given that I have some concerns in relation to some of the gaps in the drafting of this bill, not just in relation to children but more broadly, and its potential unintended consequences. Maybe I should flag from a UNICEF perspective my concerns regarding some of our humanitarian work overseas. I am a humanitarian worker who has worked overseas. We demobilise, rehabilitate and reintegrate children. We have to use much care and caution and have to negotiate with some armed groups to release children safely into our care and then provide them with emergency support and eventually that long-term care, reintegration and education. It concerns me that if I were a dual citizen I could potentially, as a humanitarian, fall within the scope of this bill, given its current scope and nature.

Mr DREYFUS: That point has been made by other submitters. As you have identified it in the broad, the bill could potentially, in its currently drafted form, affect workers for humanitarian organisations. The Law Council of Australia, for example, specifically identified the Red Cross. Other submitters have referred to humanitarian organisations more generically, but that is the point you are making here. Is that correct?

Dr Gillespie : Yes, very precisely. We would fall exactly in with the Red Cross concerns. We are doing very similar work.

Ms Lamoin : And in terms of understanding that very practical, grounded work that UNICEF does in the field, I absolutely would share concerns that someone doing that work who has dual citizenship, even if it was unintended, could fall within the scope of this bill.

Mr DREYFUS: Is one of the concerns related to the words used in proposed section 35(1)(b)(ii)? It is about the automatic cessation of Australian citizenship if a dual citizen where someone is fighting for—and the particular words are 'or is in the service of'—a declared terrorist organisation. Is that one of the concerns?

Ms Lamoin : Absolutely. That is incredibly broad. And there are some concerns in relation to the definition of terrorist groups, and that is I guess a shared concern globally—about how countries are considering that definition of a terrorist group. An automatic cancellation suggests that a system can be automated. It cannot be. We are talking about something that has very severe consequences and that requires careful consideration and due scrutiny. This kind of automated approach, and what sits behind that automated approach in terms of decision-making processes, is something of great concern to us. Regarding the language 'in the service of', I know that as part of UNICEF's work globally there are times when we have to educate armed groups in relation to child protection as part of their being released—actually outlining international law to members of armed groups and explaining the serious consequences for children. Would I then qualify as being 'in the service', even though I am firmly in the service of UNICEF globally and in the service of children?

Mr DREYFUS: I am going to try and do this in a shorthand way. There are a range of other conducts captured by the Criminal Code provisions that are incorporated by reference in the renunciation by conduct provision. I am talking there about providing assistance to terrorist organisations—financing or engaging. It is right to say that, potentially at least, people working for humanitarian organisations if not caught by the term 'in the service of' that we see in proposed section 35 might be caught by those other broadly defined provisions in the Criminal Code?

Ms Lamoin : Yes, potentially.

Mr DREYFUS: Again, I am conscious of the time and you have given us a full submission. If I could just take you to paragraph 4.2 of your submission, and perhaps I would preface this by saying that your third recommendation was that section 33A, which is said to describe renunciation by conduct of citizenship, and section 35, which is also conduct based, undergo amendment to ensure procedural fairness and judicial oversight, including merits review. At paragraph 4.2, is it right to describe that as setting out the kinds of criteria, the kinds of processes, the kinds of considerations applying to children that you would expect to see in a piece of legislation of this nature and that, at the moment, the bill is entirely lacking any such process?

Ms Lamoin : It is entirely lacking any such process and, yes, that is a fair summary but only a summary of the kinds of things we would like to see reflected in the bill.

Mr DREYFUS: You have said in the next paragraph at 4.3 that the proposals have the potential:

… to breach a vast number of the rights of the child and the failure to demonstrate how these limitations of rights is necessary, reasonable and proportionate …

That, in a nutshell, is the reason why you are recommending that the whole bill not be passed?

Ms Lamoin : I guess that is in a nutshell and that the bill is not in the best interests of the child.

Senator GALLAGHER: In the explanatory memorandum that accompanies the bill, it reads:

The Government has considered the best interests of the child in these circumstances where conduct of a minor is serious enough to engage the cessation or renunciation provisions and has assessed that the protection of the Australian Community and Australia’s national security outweighs the best interests of the child.

What is your response to that and, again, does that view line up with our international obligations?

Ms Lamoin : I will answer that second question first. It is not in line with our international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child or the optional protocol on children in armed conflicts. So it is not aligned with our international obligations at all. UNICEF is very respectful of the great importance of governments taking all reasonable and necessary action to ensure the security of its citizens. In fact, we recognise that importance and we understand the importance of stability and security for children and for families. But, again, it has to meet that test of what is reasonable, necessary and proportionate, and on that question of whether it is reasonable, necessary and proportionate to introduce a sweeping bill like this that does not take into account rule of law and that does not in any terms factor in core protection measures for children is very concerning. What is most important, if you are assessing the best interests of a child, is: are these measures necessary? And UNICEF's view is: not only are they not necessary; they will be ineffective in relation to the government's identified purpose.

Senator GALLAGHER: Following on from that—and again for my own understanding—is your view of how the bill applies to children under the age of 10. In their submission yesterday, the Law Council said that they believe sections 33AA and 35 in relation to conduct and service could apply without the Criminal Code applying to them, because it does not relate to a conviction.

Ms Lamoin : We agree with that assessment. One of our concerns is that it is very unclear how this may apply and the effect it may have on children aged under 10.

Mr DREYFUS: If I could take you to page 7 of your submission and in the latter part of paragraph 5.3, you state:

Definitions and concepts outlined in the Criminal Code are complex and are rightfully interpreted and administered in judicial courts with the checks and balances that accompany the criminal justice system. It is not apparent on the face of the Bill who will, in effect, assess whether a person’s conduct falls within the definitions of the Criminal Code (and therefore sections 33AA and 35), what evidence the assessor will use, what standard of proof the assessor will adopt or what, if any, rules of evidence apply.

You go on to say:

A person affected will not need to be given reasons …

Is it right to say—and you have studied this bill closely, Dr Gillespie and Ms Lamoin—that the bill is entirely silent on all of those matters of procedure, all of those matters of assessment and all of those matters of evidence?

Ms Lamoin : That is correct to say. We note that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection submission similarly did not provide any further detail on any of these procedures or processes.

Mr DREYFUS: In the next paragraph, you go on to note a reference to children and criminal liability of children that does not appear in the bill but does appear in the explanatory memorandum. You say:

The question of whether or not a child knows that his or her conduct is wrong (as is required for a determination that a child over 10 but under 14 has criminal capacity) is a highly complex investigation, ordinarily requiring expert evidence, direct discussions with the child, a deep understanding of the evolving capacities of a child and the checks and balances of a court environment.

Again, the bill provides for none of those matters. Is that right?

Ms Lamoin : None of those matters. UNICEF would like to see that much more clearly articulated if this bill were to be passed in any form so that there are proper protections for children in place. That includes quality assessments of their decision-making capacity, which considers broadly the factors that are relevant to them, including family life, education and access to education. There are a whole range of factors, which I think we discussed in the submission, that have to be considered. This is not a decision that can be made automatically. You cannot make assumptions around this. You must have direct contact with the child and there must be adequate expertise before a reliable determination is made for a child.

Mr DREYFUS: Again, I will see if I can group this up: at 5.5 and 5.6, you go on to refer to a central proposition, which is that children associated with armed forces or armed groups are first and foremost children and should be treated as victims of grave human rights abuses. You make a separate point in the next paragraph about girls holding Australian citizenship who are associated with armed groups or armed forces through early or forced marriage arrangements. Again, the bill is completely silent in indicating how any special consideration might be given to treating such children as victims or victims of human rights abuses or victims through being in a forced marriage arrangement. I take it that UNICEF would want to see, if any legislation proceeds, some capacity for consideration of those circumstances?

Dr Gillespie : We do. I think that goes to the core of our submission that we need to look through the land differently from the perspective of the child being exploited and needing protection rather than these punitive measures.

Senator FAWCETT: Under paragraph 5.5, you say:

Where children are prosecuted for these associations or related crimes, the individual concerned must be provided with the guarantees and protection of international juvenile justice standards.

You reference there the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice. Could you just expand on that a little?

Ms Lamoin : Those standards actually set out the rules and procedures that are important when considering children who have been involved in potential or criminal actions. They set out how that process should actually look in terms of making it safe and reliable for children but also, and importantly, it sets out how we need to consider children in relation to them having special status as children. It has a strong emphasis on restorative justice because we understand that, unless we have a view on restorative justice and children actually being able to approach crime and rehabilitate, essentially, there is very little hope that they will have much sense of a future or that they will go on to become positive, contributing citizens of their country.

Mr DREYFUS: Just on this restorative or rehabilitation objective, you have spent some time in the submission talking about the need for there to be—at the top of page 19 you have the heading '… demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration' available for children. That is an international obligation that Australia has—is that what you are suggesting there?

Ms Lamoin : It is an international obligation. It is replaced within the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the optional protocol on children in armed conflict. It is also seen in relation to UNICEF's perspective in practice and in the field as being the only success measure we have. There aren't that many pathways forward for children who become radicalised or involved in armed conflict. Sadly, both pathways are incredibly difficult ones. The only pathway that ends with children becoming constructive members of society again—and healed—after their experiences of being involved with those armed groups is when they are demobilised and there is serious investment in them being rehabilitated and they can be reconnected with communities and have access to education again. These children have had entirely disrupted experiences of childhood and so we need to spend some time providing safe spaces for that recovery and building connections again, which again feature education and also employment is critical. It is the best measure we have to ensure that children are not just re-recruited, Without this supported process, which is intensive and takes a long time, we know that the risk factors for children just being re-recruited are incredibly high. There are no shortcuts from a UNICEF perspective—not in our experience.

Mr DREYFUS: Your fifth recommendation at the very end of your submission goes to this point:

That the Australian Government adequately resource targeted programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate Australian citizens who have been associated with armed forces or armed groups.

Is that right?

Ms Lamoin : That is correct.

Mr DREYFUS: Are you aware of what, if any, targeted programs the Australian government has to rehabilitate and reintegrate Australian citizens, particularly children?

Ms Lamoin : I am not familiar with any that exist in Australia. Currently, I am familiar with strong programs in European country contexts where children are returned, rehabilitated and reintegrated. They are funded programs that again have an emphasis on a recovery period, education and then employment. I am familiar with the Attorney-General's funded programs to essentially counter extremism, but I am not aware of any programs that actually look at how we rehabilitate children and reintegrate them back into our communities safely.

Mr DREYFUS: Are you able to identify, Ms Lamoin, those European countries that have engaged in this kind of rehabilitation and reintegration?

Ms Lamoin : I can actually forward some information to the committee if that is useful for your purposes. Certainly, Holland is one of those countries. There are multiple European countries who actually operate based on that model. That again is identified as being the only effective way forward.

Mr DREYFUS: That would be helpful, Ms Lamoin, and I invite you to send that material to the committee.

Ms Lamoin : Yes.

Mr DREYFUS: Thanks very much, and thanks for the assistance of your comprehensive submission.

CHAIR: I just have one final question if that is all right. The basic premise of your argument, if I have it, is that for instance, if we had a 17-year old who carried out and was convicted of a terrorist act here in Australia, your preference would be that the government went down the path of rehabilitation and reintegration into the Australian community rather than revocation of citizenship.

Ms Lamoin : Our position is absolutely one of the rule of law. We actually would rely on both courts and a process of restorative justice, so that there can be essentially longer term rehabilitation of that person to hopefully ensure that they will not reoffend or become reinvolved with radicalised groups or, if they were operating alone, that they will not reoffend.

CHAIR: So, for a 17-year old convicted of a terrorist act here in Australia, rehabilitation and reintegration would be the option that you think the government should follow?

Ms Lamoin : Just to restate, I mentioned earlier that is only part of what we would suggest. If they are convicted, obviously we say that a rule of law applies. Following that, we need to actually consider—if you are serious about national security and keeping Australians safe—that this person is 17 and has committed a serious offense. We must actually factor in rehabilitation and that long-term work to ensure that people are not reoffending.

CHAIR: Thank you for giving evidence to the hearing today. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence, to which you may suggest corrections. If you have been asked to provide any additional material, which you have, please forward this to the secretariat as soon as possible. If the committee has any further questions, the secretariat will write to you.