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The battle for children’s rights


Cite as: (2008) 82(4) LIJ, p. 14

Australia’s classrooms and playgrounds were often a battlefield for Indigenous children as they fought racial stereotypes, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency CEO Muriel Bamblett told an LIV seminar.

“Every day Indigenous children and families are subject to a legal, political and economic system which ignores their cultural reality,” Ms Bamblett told the lunchtime seminar on 18 February.

“For us the playground and the classroom are often battlegrounds for our children, where our children are forced to defend who they are in the face of ignorance and the subconscious racial stereotype.”

Organised by the LIV’s Administrative and Human Rights Section, the topic was: “Children’s rights in Australia: are we doing enough?”.

The answer, according to Ms Bamblett, was “no”.

She said more needed to be done to promote the rights of Aboriginal children.

She said that because of the efforts of human rights advocates, Aboriginal leaders and advocates for children, the seeds for protecting children’s rights and safety had been spread.

Melbourne Law School senior lecturer John Tobin said it was critical that children and Indigenous people were included in decision-making processes on issues that affected them.

The participation of children did not give them the right to determine an outcome, but gave them a right to be heard in a way that gave due weight to their age and maturity, he said.

“I hope the new [Rudd] government will think that in speaking to Indigenous people in a real meaningful, rather than a tokenistic way, is in fact an effective strategy,” Mr Tobin said.

About 60 people attended the seminar which was moderated by Indigenous Victorian barrister Hans Bokelund.


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