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Report spotlights needs of young parents and their children

Graphic: National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell at the report launch

The report found that young parents and their children remain highly vulnerable to breaches of their rights to education, health and care.

The National Children's Commissioner Megan Mitchell has called on Australian governments to ensure that all pregnant and parenting teenagers are able to continue their education, in order to break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage.

A systematic, government-led approach to ensure that teen parents are supported to stay in school is among 17 recommendations set out in the Children's Rights Report 2017, which was tabled in Parliament.

Commissioner Mitchell's report draws on her eight-month investigation of the issues affecting young parents and their children. The project included analysis of submissions and expert round tables, consultations with 77 young parents and a survey of an additional 89 young or expecting parents.

It found that while teenage pregnancy has fallen in recent years, young parents and their children remain highly vulnerable to breaches of their rights to education, health and care, and are at high risk of long-term economic disadvantage.

"I am deeply concerned that responsibility for ensuring these young people can continue studying falls on the goodwill of individual principals in this country; and that not all young parents are fortunate enough to attend schools that support them," Commissioner Mitchell said.

It found young parents are at risk of poor health, are likely to be single and on low incomes, have difficulty obtaining stable housing, face significant stigma and are less likely to complete school or obtain qualifications.

Their children also experience higher rates of health difficulties and are more likely to be placed in out of home care.

The Commissioner found most young parents surveyed (64 per cent) stopped regularly attending school before becoming pregnant. Of those who were still attending school, only 30 per cent said their attendance was supported by their school.

Data collected by the Commissioner revealed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teenagers comprised 26 per cent of all teen parents, and that teenagers living in regional and remote areas were at a significantly higher risk of unplanned pregnancy.

The report also makes recommendations for improved data collection and research, including that all states and territories commit to collecting information about young parents who come to the attention of child protection authorities and children in care who become young parents.

A summary of the Children's Rights Report 2017 and recommendations is available on the Commission's website.

Date: 2 March 2018

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission


Image credits

  1. National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell at the report launch - Australian Human Rights Commission