What are "Rights"?

In 1990 the Australian Government entered an agreement to adopt the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC).  This is a formal protection of human rights for children, that is, everyone under 18 years of age.  This Convention is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.

This means that, along with many other countries in the world, Australia has agreed that people under 18 have rights, that is, they must be treated fairly and they also need some protections. Unfortunately, governments in Australia do not always ensure this happens.

Here are some examples of rights which young people have under the Convention:

  • right to a name, to be part of a country and to be known and cared for by your parents
  • right to say what you think and to be listened to
  • right to look for information, receive it and pass it on by writing, speaking, art, etc
  • right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • right to meet with others and to join or form groups
  • right to privacy
  • right to not be abused, neglected or exploited
  • right to the best possible health and medical care
  • right to an education
  • right to enjoy your own culture, religion and language
  • if you have been accused of  breaking the law, the right to be treated with respect and to have legal help
  • if you are in care, the right to suitable alternative care with a family or institution and for regular checks that this is working well for you.

You can see a copy of the Convention on the UNICEF website – www.unicef.org. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) should check that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is being followed and you can contact them if you are having problems.

Queensland also has a Human Rights Act which includes these rights and many others.  Such rights apply regardless of your skin colour, sex, religion, disability etc.  The Act sets out rights which are particularly important for young people under 18, including the right to privacy, education and protection, the right to enjoy culture and language, right to legal advice and representation, being held separately from adults if in custody on a charge, and the right to go to trial as quickly as possible.

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly by a state government agency (eg school, police, Child Safety) or someone providing a service to you that is paid for by the government (eg a residential) it may be best to try to talk to the person who is being unfair and explain why you feel you are being treated unfairly. If you are not happy with their response you can then put a complaint in to the Queensland Human Rights Commission.  They can investigate what you say happened and decide whether the Human Rights Act has been breached.

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This sheet is intended to provide general legal information about the law in Queensland. This information is not legal advice. If you have a particular legal problem you should contact a solicitor for legal advice. Below is a list of agencies that might be able to assist you, including legal agencies.

This sheet was last reviewed and updated in January 2024.  The Youth Advocacy Centre does not accept responsibility for any action or outcome because of anyone relying on the information provided.

Who can help?

Youth Advocacy Centre (YAC)
3356 1002

Hub Community Legal 
3372 7677

YFS Legal 
3826 1500

Legal Aid Queensland
1300 651 188

Youth Legal Advice Hotline (Monday – Thursday 8am – 9pm; Friday 8am – Sunday 5pm)
1800 527 527

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (24hrs 7 days a week)
3025 3888 or (free call) 1800 012 255

Translating & Interpreting Services (24hrs)
131 450

Community Legal Centres (CLCs) see www.naclc.org.au for your nearest CLC

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