When New Zealand ratified the Children’s Convention, it put into law some rights that mokopuna have to live a safe, healthy and happy life. The Convention is made up of 54 rights and two extra commitments, known as Optional Protocols, which give you rights across everything that affects you in life – your health, your school, your language, culture, identity, privacy and ability to share what you think.
The Government has promised to respect and fulfil these rights – and to make sure that those rights are protected. They also agreed to tell Aotearoa and the United Nations every five years what they are doing to make sure children are safe, healthy and thriving.
The Children’s Convention applies to everyone under 18. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, what your sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, culture or religion is, if you are rich or poor, speak a different language or have a disability.
Below are a summary of every right you have under the Children’s Convention.
All Rights under the Children’s Convention
Everyone under 18 years has rights in this Convention. You have rights no matter who you are, what you look like, what your sex, sexual orientation, culture or religion is, if you are rich or poor, speak a different language or have a disability.
Adults should always work towards what is best for you and put your wellbeing first.
Decision makers should find out what is in your best interest by thinking of you and your rights and listening to your views.
The Government must do everything it can to make these rights a reality for you, respect the role of your parents, guardian or family/whanau in providing you with appropriate guidance, and make sure that children and young people can survive and develop in a healthy way.
You have the right to protect and preserve your identity, including your name, nationality and family ties. The Government should do what it can to help you re-establish your identity if it is ever taken away from you.
You have the right to live with, or stay in contact with your family/ whānau unless this is harmful to you. If you are separated from your family, you also have the right to see them or be re-united with them.
The Government should do what it can to listen to the needs of you and your whānau and support you to maintain relations with your whānau.
You have the right not to be taken out of the country illegally including by your parents.
You have the right to expect that the Government will do all it can to make sure you are not removed from your family or taken out of the country illegally. If this does happen the government of your home country (most likely New Zealand) should make sure you can get home.
You have the right to have your views heard, considered and taken seriously in a way that is appropriate given your age and ability, especially when decisions are being made that affect you.
You should also be given the information that you need to make good decisions.
The Government and decision makers should ensure that they seek your views and take them seriously when making decisions.
You have the right to express yourself and think for yourself as long as you don’t hurt anyone. You have the right to your own religion and beliefs.
This includes your right to find out and share information.
The Government should respect your parents or guardian’s role in guiding you with this.
The Government should also make sure that disabled children and young people have information presented in a way that they can read, access and respond to.
You have the right to choose your own friends and be involved in groups or clubs as long as it’s legal and won’t hurt you or anyone else.
The Government should respect this right and ensure that there is nothing limiting you from joining organisations and protesting peacefully.
You have the right to legal protection from unlawful or unreasonable interference with your privacy (including personal information held about you), your family and your communications.
You also have the right to legal protection from any unlawful attacks on your reputation.
The Government should ensure that information that they hold about you is kept securely and is only shared when required.
You have the right to be informed. This means having access to information that you can understand, trust and that’s important for you to know. The media has an important role to play in this and should not promote information that could harm you.
You have the right to live with and be raised by your parents or family/whanau unless you are being harmed. You have the right to be protected from violence, abuse and neglect by your parents or caregivers.
If your parents or family/whanau can’t look after you properly, the Government must make sure that you live somewhere that is safe, where people respect you, your religion, culture and language.
If you are adopted, your adoption must be legal. You also have the right to the best care and to have your wellbeing put first.
The Government should ensure the provision of appropriate supports to guarantee that you are adopted by people who are able to give you the best care. For mokopuna Māori this means shared whakapapa.
The Government must make sure to uphold the laws that help you to live somewhere that is safe, where people respect you.
You have the right to special protection and help if you’re a refugee (if you are forced to leave your home and live in a different country). You also have the same rights as other children and young people born in New Zealand.
If you are a refugee you have the right to special protection and help whether you’ve come to New Zealand with other people or not.
The government must ensure that your views and best interests are considered in the refugee status determination process.
If you have a physical, mental or intellectual disability, you have the right to reach your full potential. You and your family/whānau have the right to extra help with your education, care and participation in the community if you need it.
The government should ensure that you have access to support services to ensure that you can reach your full potential.
You have the right to the best health care available, including dental, sexual and mental health services.
You also have the right to clean water, nutritious food, and a safe environment to help you stay healthy.
The Government should ensure that you have access to what you need to be healthy, seek medical help if you need it and have education to understand what you need to be healthy.
The government should ensure that these services are available to you.
If you are placed in foster care then you have the right to have your living arrangements regularly checked to make sure that they are working out well for you.
The government should ensure that your living arrangements are regularly checked.
You have the right to a good standard of living (Articles 26 and 27)
You have the right to financial support from the Government, especially when your family/whanau cannot provide this for you. This includes your right to food, clothing, a safe place to live, and other basics.
The Government should ensure that there are supports that you/your family/whānau can access to ensure that you have what you need.
You have the right to a good quality education that helps you develop your personality, talents and abilities to the full. You should be treated with respect and be encouraged to respect each other’s rights and values. Discipline in schools should respect your dignity.
The government should ensure that where you access education, this is done in a way that supports you to achieve.
You have the right to learn about and practice your own culture language and religion. If you are from a minority or indigenous culture you have the right to special protection from things that might stop you from being you.
The Government should recognise and respect your right to learn about and express your culture in the way that you want.
You have the right to rest, play and to be involved in things like sports, music, arts, drama and cultural activities. You also have the right not to be involved in these things.
The Government should recognise the importance of play and rest. They should also encourage and enhance access to recreation, sports and cultural spaces.
You have the right to safe working conditions and to be paid for your work. You also have the right to be protected from work that is harmful to you and your education.
The Government should make sure that there are workplace protections in place and that they are enforced.
You have the right to be safe from all forms of abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, war, drugs and the drug trade, kidnapping, torture, cruel and harmful punishment.
You should not be placed in prison or detained except as a last resort. You should not be placed in prison or detained with adults unless it’s in your best interests.
The Government should put in place measures to reduce the harm to you if these things do happen to you.
The Government must also do everything it can to help children and young people who have suffered from any of these things.
If you are in trouble with the law, you have the right to be treated fairly by the justice system in a way that respects your rights. You have the right to a fair hearing, legal help and representation.
The Government should ensure that you are treated justly and fairly and receive the supports that you are entitled to.
These articles are about how adults and governments should work together to make sure that all children and young people’s rights are respected.
They also outline how the Government must report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child about what life is like for children and young people in New Zealand and how they experience their rights.
This report is submitted every five years. The Committee on the Rights of the Child also produces General Comments to explain the rights in the Convention and provide guidance on particular issues.