The Hon Larry Anthony
Minister For Children And Youth Affairs

 on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children

New York,
9 May 2002

Mr President,
Mr Secretary-General,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

In 1990 at the World Summit on Children, Australia joined with other countries to affirm our commitment to children. We have all travelled a long road since then and much has been achieved, but if we are to be honest not enough has been achieved for the children of the world.

This distinguished forum provides a unique opportunity for us to learn from and build on one another's experiences since that time and to renew our efforts to address the challenges that remain. Importantly the children of the world have assembled here to assist us with the challenges ahead. I would like to particularly recognise Emily Simpson and Tim Goodwin, who join me as part of the Australian delegation to this forum. UNICEF are to be congratulated for their excellent work in bringing these events to fruition.

Over the past decade, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has helped raise awareness of children's rights, and provided a framework for addressing the needs of children. However, many fundamental challenges to the well being of children remain.

Millions of children throughout the world continue to live in poverty stricken conditions, and experience daily the lack of adequate food, shelter and access to health and education facilities.

The continued subjection of children to the worst forms of child labour, sexual and other physical abuse and exploitation, and their use and abuse in armed conflict reminds us how far we have to go in protecting child rights and giving all children a better future.

The Australian government is committed to enhancing children's health and educational outcomes and supporting all families with children. We encourage partnerships between governments, business, communities and families to provide innovative children's services. Our support for children begins with perinatal services and continues through childhood. To give Australian children the best start in life, we provide parenting support, family payments, health services, childcare and high quality education.

In many areas we have a proud record. One is the area of immunisation where through direct government intervention we have achieved a dramatic increase. We now have nearly 90 per cent of young Australian children fully immunised. Our work with our State Governments to achieve high national standards of education is another achievement we are proud of.

In seeking to implement the goals of the World Summit on Children Australia continues to face a number of challenges. We are working hard to ensure better health and education outcomes for all children, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. We are also promoting gender equality through our Beijing plus Five Action Plan.

This approach is complemented by the work of our independent Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, which plays an important role in public human rights education, including the human rights of children.

We are encouraged by the willingness of the international community to conclude recent Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Australia signed the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography on 18 December 2001. The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict is under active consideration.

Mr President

In addition to taking these measures at home, Australia is also supporting in a practical way, the cause of children globally.
Australia's development cooperation programme benefits children through its poverty reduction focus, which aims to improve access to the basic health, nutrition and educational services that every child in the world needs to survive and thrive.

Our aim is to ensure our aid helps women and girls to participate fully in economic and social life.

Mr President

The international community now faces major challenges that were not identified at the World Summit. One of these is HIV/AIDS, which has had a devastating impact on children. In addressing this global challenge, it is vital the momentum generated by last year's Special Session on H1V/AIDS is maintained. In October 2001 Australia hosted a regional ministerial meeting on HIV/AIDS and is implementing a six-year, $200 million global initiative.

Developments in communications technology since the World Summit offer new opportunities to improve the lives of children. The Australian Government is contributing up to $200 million over five years to the Virtual Colombo Plan - a joint initiative with the World Bank which includes use of the internet to help teachers upgrade their skills and improve the quality of basic education for children in many countries.

Mr President

Every day as the dawn breaks we must ensure that the future for today's children is better than yesterday. As the leader of the Australian delegation to this distinguished forum, but more importantly as a father, I believe that if the world is going to be a better place and "fit for children" then we must put children first.