Immigration detention and asylum seeker program
The Commission undertakes a program of work on issues facing asylum seekers and refugees, led by the Human Rights Commissioner. This involves an annual visit program to immigration detention centres, engagement with Parliament on legislative review of the Migration Act and related laws, and the conduct of thematic research projects on asylum seeker policy.
In addition, the President handles complaints under the AHRC Act relating to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This regularly includes complaints from people in immigration detention or community detention arrangements.
The Commission maintains regular contact with the Government on these issues, with high-level quarterly meetings with officials from the Department of Home Affairs and the Border Force.
A significant focus of work in 2018–19 has been on procedures relating to the use of force in immigration detention centres and the risk management framework in place for decision-making about people who are in immigration detention.
The Commission’s President investigated complaints under the AHRC Act relating to use of force, and the Human Rights Commissioner focused inspection visits to immigration detention facilities on risk management issues.
The Commission will deliver reports on both of these activities in 2019.
Children’s rights: Kids’ Rights Survey and Children’s rights report to the United Nations
Commissioner Mitchell’s goal to elevate the voice and participation children in human rights was exemplified this year in the 2018 Children’s Rights Poll (also known as the Kids Rights Survey).
The Poll was developed by the Commission with University of Melbourne and ABC’s ‘Behind the News’ program. A key feature was using co-design principles so that the survey was developed with the input of children themselves. The Commissioner worked with children from two schools using class-based workshops to ensure the survey would reflect how young people want to talk about their rights.
The Poll asked all children and young people—aged 17 and under—how they feel about growing up in Australia, what rights are important to them and how easy it is for them to access necessities like medicine and school. It received an unprecedented response, with 22,700 children aged 6–17 years completing the poll.
The results were released in September 2018 with Commissioner Mitchell returning to the co-design schools to report to them directly on the results.
The results of the poll informed the Commission’s engagement with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about Australia’s progress in meeting its international law obligations.
The Commission made a comprehensive submission to the Committee for the forthcoming examination of Australia’s periodic review of progress in implementing the treaty. In January 2019, the Children’s Commissioner also addressed the Committee in Geneva, including by highlighting the key issues identified by Australia’s children.