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Australian children deserve legislated climate protection

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Save the Children Australia calls for the Australian Parliament to listen to the voices of children and young people and legislate protections to ensure that their rights are safeguarded against the climate crisis. 

Save the Children Australia is deeply disappointed that the voices and views of children and young people on climate have yet again been ignored, as a Senate Committee yesterday recommended the Parliament reject the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill.  

The Bill, introduced to the Parliament by Independent Senator David Pocock on behalf of Australian youth climate activists, seeks to establish a duty of care in Australian law to protect children and young people from climate harm when assessing fossil fuel projects. It received strong backing from children and young people.  

During its inquiry, the Committee received more than 350 submissions in support of the Bill, many authored by children and young people. Save the Children Australia’s own submission highlighted calls from its youth advisors for the Bill to be enacted and for the government to uphold the right of children and young people to participate in decisions that affect them. 

Despite acknowledging that the “majority of inquiry participants were strongly supportive of the intent of the Bill and the need to protect the health and wellbeing of children from the effects of climate change” the Committee still rejected the Bill, instead recommending the Australian government utilise the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Child Rights Impact Assessment Tool to assist in policy decision making.  

While Save the Children Australia believes this would be a positive development, it is not a substitute for a legislated duty of care. 

Sophia Pauchet, Save the Children Australia Youth Advisor and submission co-author, highlighted that the Senate Committee’s recommendation is yet another example of Australian politicians deciding that legislating protections for the future of children and the climate is too difficult. 

“This is once again an example of governments and politicians restricting their view of what is possible to the boundaries of their elected term,” the 22-year-old said. 

“All we ask is for the government to look past a three-year scope, to consider the future of this nation, the wellbeing of your children and the planet that is required to help us grow, and to legislate a duty of care.” 

Save the Children Australia spokesperson Aram Hosie said children and young people have made clear that they want to see their rights protected and their wellbeing considered in the face of the climate emergency, and it was time to heed their call. 

“The climate crisis is a child rights crisis and it’s unfortunate that some committee members have failed to recognise the importance of a Duty of Care Bill in futureproofing the lives and wellbeing of Australia’s children,” he said. 

“The Duty of Care Bill was spearheaded by young people calling for greater protections for themselves and future generations, yet their calls have been left unanswered.” 

According to Hosie,  the Australian Parliament can and must urgently find a legislative solution that will ensure children’s rights are upheld and their wellbeing prioritised in future climate decisions. 

“While children and young people are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis, they are also a part of the solution.” 

“They have a right to be heard and we will continue to stand alongside children and young people in calling for a duty of care to be legislated as the most effective way to deliver the protections that children are seeking,” added Hosie. 

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Pearl Dy is a community manager and journalist. She is passionate about business and development particularly involving not-for-profits, charity and social entrepreneurship.

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