The Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry was established on 1 July 2012 by the new Queensland Government to review Queenslands child protection system. Headed by the Honourable Tim Carmody SC, the report and recommendations are due to be handed to the Premier by 30 April 2013.
The inquiry is charged with reviewing the progress and outcomes of the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions (the 1999 Forde Inquiry) and the 2004 Crime and Misconduct Commission Inquiry, and charting a road map for child protection in Queensland for the next decade. A notable difference to previous inquiries is no single catalyst or case has prompted this review.
The Commissioner has been asked to include recommendations on reforms to ensure Queenslands child protection system achieves the best possible outcomes for children and families, and strategies to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous children. Within the terms of reference the inquiry will also review the current use of available resources across the child protection system, the transition of children through the system and the effectiveness of monitoring, investigation, oversight and complaint mechanisms.
ACT for Kids has participated in many focus groups and made three written submissions, offeringa number of recommendations to ensure the child protection system is effective in safeguarding children and young people, ensuring safe, nurturing homes, and responding to risks of harm.
Our key recommendations include:
- Mandatory reporting in Queensland should be expanded to include any role working with children and these people should receive thorough training and education about the system their responsibilities.
- There needs to be national coordination for child protection services. Currently each state has its own governing body.
- There needs to be more support to recruit and retain the right people for Child Safety Officer roles.
- Capacity and availability of servicesneeds to be increased(geographically and service types) and the comparison of need versus current service footprint should be reviewed to reduce geographic disadvantage.
- Further investment is needed to expand family support programs already shown to be effective in preventing child abuse and neglect.
- Referral pathways need to be opened to remove barriers and enable faster access to early intervention and prevention support.
- Legislation and program structures need to be reviewed and realigned to support better integration between organisations and services to deliver better case management and outcomes for children and families.
- Definitions, assessments and processes need to be reviewed and updated to enable the child protection system and workers to deliver the intended outcomes of safe, nurturing, loving family homes for children in remote Indigenous communities.
- Geographic disadvantage and racism inherent in the system needs to be acknowledged and tackled so Indigenousfamilies and communities are not denigrated for child maltreatment for issues out of their control.
- Remote Indigenous community safe houses need to continue to provide short term safe accommodation and care for children and young people at risk of harm, assistance to reunify families where possible and develop the capacity of potential foster and kinship carers in community.