Charter

Discover more about the Charter

Strengthening the voices of children in care and care leavers in decision-making that affects them – and within recordkeeping itself.

In Australia almost 50,000 children are in care. That’s approximately one in 100. 18,862 are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – one in every 18.

The Charter acknowledges that individuals who have experienced out-of-home care have direct authority to speak about the ways in which recordkeeping impacts the exercise of their rights leading up to, during and after care.

Download the charter

"As they go through the life stages, without recordkeeping being accurate and without them having some say in the records, often that leaves them feeling very disenfranchised. It can really impact their sense of self and sense of identity."

Jacqui Reed
CEO, CREATE Foundation

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"For our Stolen Generations that we work closely with in the Healing Foundation, it’s about a truth-telling experience, putting their truth out there to inform their healing and ultimately ours as a nation."

Lou Turner
Anangu, Pitjantjatjara man
Healing Foundation

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Important background information

The role of recordkeeping and archiving in human rights and social justice contexts has been explored by Monash University scholars since 2003.

The research has led to a rethinking of participatory archiving as it relates to all types of records, an expanded conceptualisation of archival activism and a new concept of archival autonomy. It has also revealed insights into the vital transformative roles that recordkeeping and archiving play in society.

Formalising recordkeeping rights offers scaffolding for embedding principles of justice and lifelong ethics of care throughout human-centred information systems and participatory practice.

Download the preface by Dr Frank Golding OAM

Key aspects of the Charter

Principles and values

The fundamentals underpinning the Charter relate to child wellbeing and safety, and self-determination, linked to archival autonomy, agency and child safety. Human rights, Indigenous human rights connected to First Nations sovereignty1 and transformative justice form its broader context.

The Charter and the rights outlined in it apply throughout an individual’s life, while they’re in care and beyond.

It supports child safety principles2, the wellbeing of children and young people in care, and addressing the lifelong information needs of care leavers and Stolen Generations – including those relating to historical justice and redress.

Charter principles and values

Warrants

The Charter derives its main testimonial warrant from living experience.

It draws from a substantial evidence base of inquiries and reviews conducted into child protection in Australia, and significant care leaver representation through the co-production of research, autobiographies, writings and artwork.

These guide the Charter in confirming the existence of many individual, collective and administrative rights held and contested by diverse stakeholders in recordkeeping (including organisational and human entities). They also clearly validate children who intersect with the care system as those whose rights are most at risk in such encounters.

Additionally, the Charter derives instrumental warrant from existing rights statements and governance instruments, drawing primarily on those of UN and Australian formulation as most relevant to our immediate context.

The extensive and authoritative analysis of warrant is available below,

The extensive and authoritative analysis of warrants is available as a literature review by Dr Nina Lewis.

Prioritising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

First Nations children are 11 times more likely than their non-Indigenous counterparts to be in care3, reflecting the impact of ongoing colonisation. The voices of this community and care leavers, including Stolen Generations, are prioritised as the best expressions of knowledge regarding their rights and experiences of care.

Racially-based policies and legislation have enabled the removal of Aboriginal children, creating the Stolen Generations. The colonial legacy, institutional racism and transgenerational trauma continue to impact those in care.

What’s more, there are unique human rights issues associated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and their removal from their families contributes to a larger colonial project of dispossession and denial of First Nations sovereignty.

Community organisations are adopting a culturally-based, trauma-informed therapeutic approach to support Indigenous children and families – guided by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle.

By 2031, the National Agreement for Closing the Gap commits to reducing the rate of over-representation of Indigenous children in out-of-home care by 45 per cent.

Refocusing the nature of recordkeeping

At the 2017 Setting the Record Straight for the Rights of the Child Summit, participants who had experienced care envisioned a transformational shift away from organisation-centric records of control and surveillance, to child- and care leaver-centred recordkeeping frameworks, policies and systems.

Why keep records

They imagined participatory recordkeeping systems that would:

  • document their lives
  • support the development of their sense of identity and belonging
  • keep them connected with family and community
  • address questions around who they are, where they come from and why they are in care.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island participants also emphasised the potential of recordkeeping in truth-telling and connecting to their rich heritage and Country.


  1. United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), United Nations Declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples (UNDRIP).
  2. 2Adoption of the child safety principles in all organisations was recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2017. They are incorporated in the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020 and are supported by a set of recordkeeping principles.
  3. Relative to their numbers in the general population.