Law in Practice Report
Evaluate the effectiveness of the legal and non-legal responses to a contemporary issue of your choice. Issue: Children and Young People
Every child has rights no matter who they are, where they live or what they believe. This builds the diversity, harmony, fair and just community in Australia that we strive to live upon as they are the future of our society. The way in which we nurture them is to prevent them from being exploited and to protect them from the consequences of making uninformed decisions. However, there are disadvantages that children and young people encounter so Australia has created legal and non-legal means to address these disadvantages and encountered the limitations of these means.
The classification in which the government and law define a ‘child’ or ‘young person’ is conveyed through
Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC). This states that anyone under the age of 18 is a child unless the national law specifies an earlier age. Clear definitions are imperative because laws treat children and young people differently from adults.
It was not until the late 19th century that concern about the working conditions of children, and the broader effects that child labour had on the quality of many children’s lives, set in motion significant changes. Children committing criminal acts were treated in the same way as adult offenders as doli incapax did not exist yet.
The recognition of children’s rights was established due to two significant events in the 1980s; United
Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (CROC), and the Gillick case in England.
The UN Convention on the Right of the Child (1989) sets out a widespread set of rights for all children and young people and which covers civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
The Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Health Authority (1985) case was of Gillick, who brought an action against the health authority and the DHSS (The Department of Health and Social Security), based on her belief that a child under 16 was too young to make such a decision without parental consent. This led to the affirmation of the appeal on the basis that children have the right and the ability to make decisions to affect their lives, and they can do so competently as long as they understand the implications of their decisions. Civil and criminal laws that raise the issues of interest to children have been continuously passed throughout the years through their responsiveness as further more of society begins to realise the significance of children and young people’s rights and to meet societies fair and just needs. Such legislation is the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), Adoption Act 2000 (NSW, Births, Deaths and Marriages
Registration Act 1995 (NSW), The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW,)
Education Act 1990 (NSW), Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 (NSW), Minors (Property and
Contracts) Act 1970 (NSW), Young Offenders Act 1997 (NSW), etc.
The mechanisms for the protection of the rights of children and young people all contribute to the making of legislation, whether they are legal responses or non-legal responses.
The United Nations has contributed as a legal response through the Convention on the Rights of the Child
(CROC) as it has been important in putting the rights of children on the global agenda. The Committee on the Rights of the Child meets to examine reports from ratifying countries.
Federal and state parliaments have passes numerous Acts that protect children and young people by restricting their activities and by placing responsibilities on adults to ensure the welfare of children and young people. The courts have also played a role, through cases that have affirmed the current law or changed the law through reinterpretation.
Some of the legal institutions in NSW that have been set up to protect children and young people are institutions such as the