International and Domestic Law
The UN Convention
In 1990 Australia signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This means that Australia agrees to be bound by the Articles of the Convention. The Convention is an agreement between countries to observe common standards for protecting the rights of children, especially when passing laws and implementing policies. It is important to note that while Australia has ratified the Convention, it has yet to legislatively enact many of the Articles found within it.
There are 40 Articles in the Convention covering issues such as child welfare, care and protection, juvenile justice, health, education and civil rights.
Family Law Act
Aspects of the law concerning the relationship between parents and children are dealt with under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). Children’s rights in other areas are contained in state legislation and in the common law. Each of the parents of a child who has not attained the age of 18 years has shared parental responsibility unless they agree otherwise or the Family Court makes an order changing their responsibility. This principle applies equally whether a child is born within marriage (‘nuptial child) or whether the parents are not married (‘ex-nuptial child’). In this context, ‘a child’ means a person under 18, which is the age of majority for most purposes. Unless it is contrary to a child’s best interests, children have the right to know and be cared for by both their parents and the right to contact with their parents and other significant people in their lives (s60B(2)).
A parent may appoint someone on their death to be guardian of their children. This can be done in a will.