Upholding and protecting children’s rights is essential to promoting their mental health.
As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRoC)1, Australia has a responsibility to ensure that children’s best interests are reflected in policy and program planning, and that children are widely supported to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.
The CRoC stipulates that every child has the right to:
- the protection, support and care necessary for their wellbeing;
- participate and be heard in discussions and decisions that will affect them (when they are capable of forming their own views);
- be brought up by their own family unless it is contrary to the child’s best interest;
- maintain personal relation and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interest;
- education and information that is linguistically, culturally, psychologically and developmentally appropriate (especially that which will promote his or her social, spiritual, physical and mental health);
- the highest attainable standards of health;
- a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
While the rights of children set out in the CRoC are of equal importance, the right to be heard underpins the application of all CRoC rights2.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has identified children with mental health issues as being at risk of falling through the service gaps3, with poor participation opportunities being a key vulnerability. It is therefore paramount that mental health service delivery is guided by the CRoC.
The National Workforce Centre supports children to have input into the discussions and decisions surrounding their mental health. Giving children opportunities to be involved in decision-making processes and to freely express their needs can empower children and increase the likelihood of children accessing and trusting in service systems4. Having child-centred processes in place can also enhance decision-makers’ understandings of children’s experiences, foster more positive attitudes towards children, and ultimately improve service responses4, 5.
1. Nations, U., United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 1990, United Nations: New York.
2. Australian Human Rights Commission, Children’s rights report 2016. National Children’s Commissioner. 2016, Australian Human Rights Commission: Sydney.
3. Australian Human Rights Commission. About children’s rights. 2017 [cited 2017 November 2]; Available from: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/childrens-rights/about-childrens-rights.
4. Moore, T., Protection through participation: Involving children in child-safe organisations (CFCA Practitioner Resource). 2017, Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
5. Osborn, A., & Bromfield, L., Participation of children and young people in care in decisions affecting their lives (NCPC Brief No. 6). 2007, Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.