Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 8, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict
Concluding observations: Australia
11 July 2012
13. The Committee is deeply concerned that the Defence Instructions 2008 only prevent children under the age of 18 from involvement in hostilities to the extent that it does not adversely impact on the conduct of operations. The Committee notes with concern that the application of this provision could lead to the direct participation of children under the age of 18 years in hostilities.
14. The Committee recommends that the State party review its domestic legislation and military procedures to ensure that members of the armed forces who are under the age of 18 do not take direct part in hostilities in accordance with article 1 of the Optional Protocol. In this regard, the Committee further recommends that the State party define the concepts of “direct participation” and “hostilities” in relevant domestic legislation.
15. The Committee notes that the State party adopted a duty of care policy in the Defence Instructions in 2008. However, the Committee regrets the lack of information on the implementation of this policy.
16. The Committee recommends that the State party include detailed information on the implementation and effectiveness of the duty of care policy in its next periodic report.
17. The Committee notes that the age of voluntary recruitment into the ADF is 17 years.
18. In order to promote and strengthen the protection of children through an overall higher legal standard, the Committee encourages the State party to review and raise the minimum age of voluntary recruitment into the ADF to 18 years of age.
19. While recognizing that members of the Australian Defence Force Cadets are not members of the ADF, the Committee notes with concern that under the cadet scheme, children are exposed to military-like training activities, including drills, ceremonial parades and the use of firearms at an early age. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that the ADF active targeting of schools for recruits through ‘work experience programs’ may unduly put pressure on young persons, especially from marginalized populations and from different linguistic backgrounds to volunteer, without full informed consent.
20. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Review the operations of its cadet scheme to ensure that activities in such programmes are age appropriate, particularly with respect to military-like activities, and establish clear guidelines on the age requirement for such activities, taking due consideration of the mental and physical effects of such activities on the child;
(b) Ensure effective and independent monitoring of the cadet scheme to safeguard the rights and welfare of the child enrolled in the cadet forces and ensure that children, parents and other groups are adequately informed about the recruitment process and are able to present concerns or complaints;
(c) Prohibit the handling and use of firearms and other explosives for all children under the age of 18 years in line with the spirit of the Optional Protocol;
(d) Ensure that young persons from different linguistic backgrounds and/or from marginalized populations are not overly targeted for recruitment and put in place measures for informed consent;
(e) Include information on how the activities of the cadet forces fit with the aims of education, as recognized in article 29 of the Convention and in the Committee’s general comment No. 1 (2001) on the aims of education.