Protecting children from bullies and bureaucrats


UN Convention on the Rights of the ChildA Wesley Mission survey of 1200 adults found that being bullied as children caused 70 per cent of them to suffer from low self-esteem and a lack of assertiveness later in life. They have failed to develop the sense of identity and belonging that is vital to human wellbeing.

The report is titled Give kids a chance: No-one deserves to be left out. Its release coincided with Friday's observance of the United Nations Universal Children's Day. It is one of a number of reminders in the past week that children have suffered permanent damage because of bad policy and inappropriate treatment by adults or other children.

On Thursday, the children's rights group Save the Children led a demonstration on the lawns in front of Parliament House to urge the Federal Government to create a national children's commissioner. This was a promise of Labor in opposition in 2003.

They were also marking the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull apologised to the Forgotten Australians whose lives were devastated by their experience of living in care as children. Many Australians were shocked by the statistic that 500,000 of us grew up in such circumstances.

Meanwhile the director of Jesuit Refugee Service Australia, Father Sacha Bermudez-Goldman, issued a call on behalf of child refugees and asylum seekers after visiting Christmas Island.

He said that while some families are accommodated in the community on Christmas Island, others, including their children, are housed in detention-like conditions for periods of up to several months. He said this practice threatens to breach the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children should be detained as a last resort, and for the shortest possible period of time.

It's pleasing that the UN Convention has had successes over 20 years in helping to transform conditions for children globally through strategies to decrease child mortality, provide opportunities for education, and combat child exploitation. In Australia, the apology to the Forgotten Australians is a good first step. But it is only a beginning.

Federal Labor must explain what has become of its promise to appoint a children's commissioner. Hopefully the promise will be honoured and an appointee can singlemindedly work with the bureaucracy to address past injustices and also implement preventative strategies for the future. They can take practical responsibility for the plan of action outlined by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, and possibly assess the merit of inviting claims for compensation.

John Honner's Eureka Street article last Tuesday points to qualities that could be listed as selection criteria for such a person.

'It takes heart to be able to listen to a story of grief and abuse, to pass over into another person's life, to feel something of the hurt, and to be there in solidarity until reconciliation slowly builds. It takes truthfulness, too.'

If the injustices of the past are to be addressed through such reconciliation, there is a good chance many future injustices will be prevented.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.



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Existing comments

I find it interesting that the practice of bulling is raised again, this problem seems to me to be getting worse as time goes by.
Thoes people responsible for young men in particular in various schools accross the country never take responsibility for their for their failure to discipline bullies when it accurs under their mandate.
As I grew up the best model that I know of for dealing with bullies was provided in the book, Tom Brown's School Days, that is, deliver to the bully a dose of his own medicine.

The next best remedy is to dismiss a headmaster when the level of bullying is greater than one or two instances a term in his or her school.

Bullies laugh at the c word {counselling } and agree with everything that is said and then go out and do it again. Young men in particular are impressed with the concept of discipline and it seems to me that is the very thing missing when dealing with this sort of assault.

Kevin Vaughasn | 23 November 2009  

A Childrens Rights Commissioner is desperately needed to ensure the rights of ALL children in Australia including the rights of the children of non-citizens who are currently denied most rights.
They are locked up without charge, interviewed by police and immigration officials without an independant person being present as required by law, denied access to school at the whim or convenience of immigration officials and subject to denial of the freedoms and rights which we take for granted.

The Children of the First and Last arrivals in this country are systemically denied the rights which we promised to provide in the International conventions which we have signed TIME IS UP- We need a Childrens Commissioner NOW.

Pamela | 27 November 2009  

Michael Mullins criticism of 'Federal Labor' looks like a smoke screen to divert attention from the generations of abuse of children perpetrated and concealed by the Church. Wasn't something said about trying to remove the mote from another's eye while disregarding the log in one's own?

Ginger Meggs | 27 November 2009  

Perhaps Michael would comment on yet another example of the Church still not comprehending the importance of taking appropriate action in the case of abuse of children. The case referred to in this story is not about early 20th century Ireland, but current 21st century Queensland.

Ginger Meggs | 02 December 2009  

Looks like there is a broken link to

You might also want to add some of these resources I found useful...

Lisa | 10 July 2014  

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