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Human Rights Council – 22nd Regular Session
Annual Full-day Meeting on the Rights of the Child - the right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health
7 March 2013
Australia welcomes the opportunity to address the specific issue of children and their access to the highest attainable standard of health and thanks the High Commissioner for her report on the issue. Good health is a fundamental human right and is a global development priority. Ensuring children everywhere have access to the range of health care and services required for them to grow and thrive, is a key step on the way to full realisation of all their rights.
Australia is committed to working within our federal system of government to provide the full complement of child health care and services. The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020, jointly developed by the Australian, state and territory governments and the non-government sector, is a key collaborative national strategy to improve the safety and wellbeing of children in Australia. The National Framework aims to ensure that all children and their families, and especially those in vulnerable groups, receive appropriate support and services to create conditions of safety and care.
Children in Australia are entitled to universal health care, including free access to hospital services, as well as subsidised access to primary health care services and medicines. Providing accessible and high quality health care to all our children is not without its challenges – the Australian Government has a number of programs which provide targeted health care access for children in vulnerable groups, including Indigenous children, children in out-of-home care and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Australia recognises the importance of a holistic approach to delivering services to vulnerable children, and in particular, the strong links between education and health. For example, programs to improve health outcomes in our Indigenous communities, go hand-in-hand with programs to improve education outcomes for Indigenous children.
Another priority area for Australia is to ensure ongoing and substantive health assessments and interventions for children and young people in the child protection system, as well as effective mechanisms to track their health histories. In this context, Australia is interested in learning more from the experts and from other states about health programs for children and young people in the child protection system, as well as ways to better meet their mental health needs.
Internationally, Australia plans to spend $1.6 billion of official development assistance on maternal and child health between 2010 and 2015. This funding is intended to support countries to improve children’s health through a range of measures including:
- disease prevention through large-scale immunisation programs;
- promoting exclusive breastfeeding and other targeted nutrition support, such as supplementary feeding programs;
- providing adequate water and sanitation systems to prevent the spread of communicable diseases; and
- strengthening health systems, including by training health workers and improving health infrastructure, to ensure children receive appropriate care.
Australia is also committed to improving maternal mortality rates, including by increasing the number of skilled birth attendants in partner countries through the aid program.
The international community has made progress in improving the health of the world’s poor and in tackling global health threats. But as the High Commissioner’s report highlights, there is much more to be done. Australia is firmly committed to realising the right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health, and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership with others to maximise the impact of our efforts.