Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 21 November 2016
Page: 3621

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (11:02): The motion rightly acknowledges the important work of UNICEF in protecting and supporting children around the world since 1946. Child abuse and exploitation continues to be a blot on humanity. Every day millions of children around the world are mistreated, abused and suffer, despite the work of UNICEF and other worthy organisations, and despite countries where the abuse occurs being signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Today, I want to draw attention to two matters which UNICEF has reported on in recent times, and I commend UNICEF for doing so. The first is the treatment of children in Palestine. A report titled Children in Israeli Military Detention, prepared by UNICEF after conducting its own review of allegations of ill-treatment of children who came into contact with the military detention system, states:

…the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child's prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.

It is understood that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights. The report goes on to say:

The pattern of ill-treatment includes the arrests of children at their homes between midnight and 5:00 am by heavily armed soldiers; the practice of blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties; physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints; lack of access to water, food, toilet facilities and medical care; interrogation using physical violence and threats; coerced confessions; and lack of access to lawyers or family members during interrogation.

Treatment inconsistent with child rights continues during court appearances, including shackling of children; denial of bail and imposition of custodial sentences; and transfer of children outside occupied Palestinian territory to serve their sentences inside Israel…

These practices are in violation of international law that protects all children against ill-treatment when in contact with law enforcement, military and judicial institutions.

They are the words of UNICEF. The report goes on to make 14 recommendations. I do not know what Israel's response to those recommendations has been to date, but such treatment is prohibited under all circumstances, including security considerations. Children should never be used as a tool of war.

The second matter I wish to refer to relates to Australian children, here in our own country, and a study from the Australian Child Rights Taskforce, of which UNICEF played a key role. The report found that state and federal governments have repeatedly breached the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child over the past 25 years and are likely to continue doing so. The report found that 70,000 children received support from homeless organisations, 43,000 lived in out-of-home care and one in six children lived below the poverty line. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were 26 times more likely to be in juvenile detention and, I understand, form some 35 per cent of the children that live in out-of-home care. There are obviously many other statistics that would point to similar trends.

The fact remains that for many Australian children, Australia is not the lucky country. If you are an asylum seeker child in this country, you are even more unlucky spending, on average, 457 days in a detention centre. Research released by UNICEF in April showed Australia ranks 27th out of 35 countries in healthy, quality outcomes, and 24th out of 37 in education equality results for children. Those figures are damning of how children are treated right here in our own country, and I have no doubt that governments over many years have tried to improve the situation for them; nevertheless, the reality is that for many children life in this country is still not good. I commend UNICEF for everything it has done over the last 70 years, but equally for its own reports of what is happening here in Australia and, I hope, that by bringing those matters to the public attention, they will not continue to be ignored.