The Commissioner’s functions and powers are set out in section 8 to section 13 of the Commissioner for Children and Young People Act 2016. The role of the Commissioner is to advocate for and raise awareness of the rights, interests and wellbeing of children and young people aged under 18yrs throughout Tasmania. The Commissioner monitors and reviews the wellbeing of children and young people in Tasmania and can gather the information needed to perform this function. The Commissioner promotes and empowers the participation of children and young people in the making of decisions or expressing opinions on matters that may affect their lives. This includes encouraging and promoting the establishment organisations of appropriate and accessible mechanisms for the participation of children and young people in matters that may affect them.
The Commissioner can undertake own motion enquiries relevant to the functions of the position and can share information with other statutory offices, such as the Ombudsman.
The Commissioner also raises awareness on matters relating to the health, wellbeing, care, protection and development of children in Tasmania and provides advice to the Minister for Human Services on these matters. The Commissioner can also make submissions to government and to inquiries; the Commissioner may be asked to comment on draft legislation and on proposed policies, including those of a national character where the matter in question does or has the capacity to affect children and young people in Tasmania. The Commissioner can investigate some matters relating to the circumstances of individual children but only if requested to do so by the Minister.
The Commissioner has a strong focus on advocacy for all Tasmanian children, with a particular focus on, but not restricted to, children who by virtue of their circumstances, are in particular need of strong advocacy, such as children involved with the Child Protection System and/or the Youth Justice system. The Commissioner is an official advocate for young people who are detained under the Youth Justice Act 1997. In fulfilling this function the Commissioner regularly visits Ashley Youth Detention Centre to meet with the young people who are detained there. The Commissioner regularly consults with a wide range of children and young people across Tasmania. These consultations inform the Commissioner’s advocacy work and also inform his advice to government. The Commissioner hears from members of the public about a range of issues concerning children. Information received in this way is used to inform the Commissioner’s systemic advocacy work.
The Convention includes 54 “articles” which set out different child rights. Four of these articles are given special emphasis. These are:
- Non-discrimination – The right of all children to enjoy all the rights under the Convention without discrimination of any kind;
- Survival, development and protection – The right of all children to survival and development and protection;
- Best interests – Respect for the best interests of the child as a primary consideration in all decisions relating to children;
- Participation – The right of all children to express their views freely on all matters affecting them and to have their opinions taken into account.