New commissioner 'a welcome step'

EVERY Australian child deserves the right to reach their full potential, Australian Association of Social Workers' Helen Hopper said on Friday.

Ms Hopper spoke to a Senate committee reviewing a new bill to create Australia's first National Children's Commissioner.

She said the new commissioner was a welcome step forward for protecting children's rights, but social workers wanted to ensure it had the resources to do the job.

"We would see the (commissioner) as taking the lead and providing leadership to other state and territory commissioners," she said.

"We would like to ensure the resources are adequate.

"And we would like a greater emphasis on prevention and early identification for those sectors that provide those services.

"Early intervention and prevention includes the idea of educating the community and educating families in relation to how do you bring a child up that's well-rounded."

Ms Hopper said the commissioner also needed to ensure that disabled, indigenous and culturally diverse children were looked after.

"It is often children that those (homeless) children are just out of care.

"The statistics are that many thousands of children are homeless every night in Australia and that includes children that are victims of domestic violence - these are children that have to move out of home.

She said the government also should consider creating a national plan for children, and how to ensure they get the best possible opportunities.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the commissioner would ensure children's voices were heard in policy development as well as consulting with in child protection and welfare services.

"A National Children's Commissioner has the important task of promoting the rights, wellbeing and development of children and young people in Australia," she said.

"For the first time, Australia's kids will have a voice at the national level looking out for their interests."

The Senate will report its findings to parliament on June 18, with the expectation the Commissioner will be in place by the end of 2012.What the Australian Association of Social Workers wants:

  • Ensure the Commissioner is adequately resourced and consults with industry and states
  • Greater investment in child wellbeing and protection services
  • Ensure the Commissioner considers reforming the child protection sector
  • The Commissioner advocates for children and those working to help them