If you are aged under 18, you have your own set of human rights. Governments should uphold them, but all across the world they are violated.
There are about 2.3 billion children in the world, nearly a third of the total human population. Too often, they are the worst affected by injustice, targeted because they are dependent and vulnerable or because they are not seen as individuals with their own rights.
Child rights are the basis for securing human rights for future generations.
The children's rights issue In Depth
Everything you need to know
Children’s rights, our future
Protecting the human rights of children is to invest in the future.
Children have a right to life, dignity and health; identity; equality and non-discrimination; a safe place to live; protection from harm; participation (including the right to be heard); bodily integrity; protection from armed violence; justice and liberty; privacy; minority and Indigenous rights; education; play; freedom of thought; and voice and peaceful protest.
These rights are guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and additionally under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children must be able to depend on the adult world to look after them, to defend their rights and to help them develop and realise their potential.
Governments are obliged to protect all the rights of the child – economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political. They should uphold them but all across the world they are violated.
Amnesty campaigns to ensure children’s rights are a priority for governments across the world.
Indigenous youth justice in Australia
Australia is currently locking up children as young as 10 — far younger than the rest of the world — and Indigenous children are the worst affected. It’s not fair and it’s not right.
- Between 2018 and 2019, 8,353 children aged 10, 11, 12 and 13 years went through the criminal justice system, and 573 children under the age of 14 were in detention. Almost two thirds of those children in detention are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.
- 85% of Australians identified the rights of children as important to them personally, or as of importance for others. This reflects an onus on Australians to safeguard the fundamental rights of future generations.
There is overwhelming evidence of the harm prison does to children – from health experts, social workers, Indigenous leaders, legal experts and human rights organisations.
In 2012 the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said that Australia’s juvenile justice system required substantial reform before it would meet international standards, noting, for example, that children in Australia are held criminally responsible from the age of 10, two years younger than the CRC’s internationally acceptable minimum.
To close the justice gap, the Australian Government must work with the states and territories and Indigenous organisations to reduce the number of Indigenous kids in detention. This is our main campaign aim.Close
Empowering young people to know and claim their rights
Children’s rights are equal to those of adult’s – and they should have the power and agency to claim them.
When young people are educated about their rights, they are empowered to defend them, to challenge injustice against themselves and others.
We all benefit from a world in which child rights are upheld.
Know your rights And claim them
Knowledge is key. Here are some resources.
‘Know Your Rights (And Claim Them)’ by Angelina Jolie and Amnesty International
Angelina Jolie and Amnesty International have partnered on Know Your Rights (And Claim Them), a book to highlight children’s rights around the world, written in consultation with Professor Geraldine Van Bueren QC, one of the drafters of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The book is the first to explain international child rights in clear and simple terms, as well as the reality faced by children around the world. It gives young people tools to claim their rights and speak out against injustice.
At the centre are stories of incredible young activists and youth groups around the world who are at the forefront of change.
Dujuan Hoosan, an Arrernte and Garrwa Aboriginal boy from Australia, is one of them. In 2019, when he was 12, Dujuan became the youngest to address the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. He called for Australia to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, and spoke about his own experiences of nearly entering Australia’s youth justice system.
“For us kids in Australia, we had the stolen generations, and Aboriginal kids are still being taken away from their parents by the government. This history of fighting (resistance) lives in us. In our blood it runs. We need to learn about our rights, at home and at school, and share everywhere what happened and is happening to kids like us. We need to know our rights to be able to fight for a better future.”
From campaigning for gender and racial equality, to the rights to free expression, health, a clean climate and a sustainable environment, these inspiring stories prove how children and young people are courageously speaking up for their rights and challenging injustice wherever they may find it.
These are your rights. It is your right to know and claim them.
Amnesty’s Human Rights Academy: An Introduction to Child Rights
Amnesty is offering a free online human rights education course as an additional resource alongside the book Know Your Rights (And Claim Them).
The introductory course has been designed by experts, human rights lawyers and young activists, to empower the next generation of human rights defenders to claim their rights across the world.
By the end of the course, you will be able to:
- Explain the scope of children’s rights
- Describe government obligations regarding children’s rights
- Analyse how children’s rights can protect children in a diverse range of circumstances
- Apply a children’s rights lens to your everyday life
- Take action to promote and defend children’s rights
Start your journey on understanding and defending children’s rights.Close
What we're asking
Every day, right here in Australia, children as young as 10 are being transported in cages and locked up behind bars.
Children need to be loved and supported so they can reach their full potential. Not locked up. Help us call on the government to meet international standards and raise the the age at which children can be arrested and locked up.
It's time to put an end to the barbaric treatment of our children and overhaul our response to youth crime.
Raise the age
Australia locks up vulnerable children as young as 10, taking away childhoods and causing serious harm at a crucial time of development, when they are being shaped into the adults they will become. This disproportionately impacts First Nations youth.
It’s inexcusable that Indigenous children make up just 6% of the Australian population of children aged between 10 and 17 years, but approximately 60% of the youth prison population.
Our vision is to work with Indigenous communities to directly challenge the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in prison, by raising the age of criminal responsibility. We want to put an end to children falling into the quicksand of Australia’s prison system.
We are far behind most of the world in the way we treat our children. The United Nations has repeatedly criticised Australia for its minimum age of criminal responsibility. Amnesty is campaigning for the Australian government to meet its obligations under international law by raising the age from 10 to at least 14
There are proven alternatives to putting kids behind bars. Well-resourced, Indigenous-led diversion and prevention programs address the underlying causes of crime. By working on the causes – including racism, poverty, and poor health – we can give these kids a real chance at living a happy, healthy life.
It’s time — let’s give our children the future they deserve. Join us in calling for youth justice.
End police cages
Some of these kids are being transported in police cages — a ute with a cage on the back and a blue tarpaulin for cover. No seat belts, lighting, heating or air conditioning. Some of those trips last more than five hours.
Treating children as young as 10 like this is against international standards, and transporting people in motor vehicles without seatbelts is against Australian law. Treating children this way amounts to torture and it has to stop now.
You can help demand they are transported safely and with dignity. Get children out of cages and back in their communities – with the support they need to have the future they deserve.
We are calling on the government to:
- Ban the use of police cages for transporting children
- Raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old
- Ensure at-risk children have access to programs that address the underlying causes of youth crime
- Increase funding to Indigenous community-led organisations to support culturally appropriate prevention programs
Together we can make this happen.
If you want to have more impact, please consider making a donation today so that we can continue to mobilise activists, conduct meaningful research and lobby key politicians to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 and put an end to children in police cages.Close