THE safety of children of seasonal workers left in the care of relatives was highlighted by the Fiji Council of Social Services as one of the gaps in the Fiji-Australia Vuvale partnership that needs to be urgently addressed.
This, according to FCOSS youth advocate Josaia Tokoni who took part in a Convention on the Rights of the Child webinar organised by UNICEF Australia, the Diplomacy Training Program, Youth Law Australia and the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights yesterday.
He said a “family-centred approach” that encapsulated the rights and safety of children in program design, delivery and evaluation of any trade agreement and development aid policy and programs was needed.
“While the agreement has been successful so far, there are few gaps worth noting, especially when it comes to the safety of children involved,” Mr Tokoni said.
He said in some instances, both parents have had to leave their children behind in the care of grandparents or relatives as they took up non-seasonal work opportunities in Australia for up to three or four years. “While parents made the ultimate sacrifice to work in a foreign land to support their family better, the story on the ground is not always favourable. “We have incidents where the intended support for children who are left in the care of their relatives either did not arrive on time or not at all.” He said this increased the vulnerability of children especially on safeguarding issues which might include trafficking and child labour.
“Therefore, our humble plea and ask to the government of Australia and Fiji to revise Vuvale Partnership agreement in the true spirit of vuvale to allow parents to travel with their children as a family to Australia for the length or part thereof, of their contracts to allow children to enjoy the full benefits of this agreement.”
The Fiji Times has reached out to the Australian Government for comment.