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International Instruments

Most people are aware that Australian children are protected by a range of Commonwealth and State Acts of Parliament.  Australia has also ratified a range of international instruments designed to protect children. These instruments include:

  • Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction;
  • Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation;
  • Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations;
  • International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children, and
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

The CRC for example, is comprised of 54 articles.  Each article is concerned with a different aspect of protecting children across all aspects of their lives.  Article 3 contains the governing principle for the CRC – that is, that the best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions about children that affect them.  This Article requires every adult, and particularly budget, policy and law makers to methodically consider how children’s rights and interests are or will be affected directly or indirectly by their decisions and actions.

Family Law Proceedings

In family law proceedings, the ‘best interests of the child’ is the court’s paramount consideration when making decisions about who children live with, and with whom they spend time.

In making decisions about children, the Court must apply the presumption that it is in a child’s best interests to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.  This presumption is rebutted (that is, does not apply) if there is a risk that a child will be exposed to physical or psychological harm, abuse, neglect or family violence as a result of having contact with a parent.

Children’s Rights in Western Australia

Western Australia also has specific legislation in place to protect the rights and interests of children in particular circumstances. This legislation includes the following:

  • Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA);
  • Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004 (WA);
  • Family Court Act 1997 (WA);
  • Adoption Act 1994 (WA); and
  • Child Care Services Act 2007 (WA)

Children’s Court

Most states, including WA, have a separate Children’s Court jurisdiction in which matters criminal matters involving children (aged 10 to 17 years) are heard. The Children’s Court also hears matters involving care and protection of children, specifically when the Chief Executive Officer for the Department for Child Protection has applied for a protection order for a child under the The Children and Community Services Act 2004.  Protection and care matters usually involve children who have suffered, or are likely to suffer harm as a result of neglect or abuse.

If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact us or call us on 1800 609 945.

This information serves as a general guide and does not constitute legal advice. It is based on our research and experience at the time of publication. Please consult our knowledgeable Legal Team for any specific inquiries or advice relevant to your circumstances, as the content may not have been updated subsequently.