The Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry conducted a far reaching review of Queensland’s child protection system in July 2012. The report concluded the existing system was not ensuring the safety, wellbeing and best interests of children and made numerous recommendations to improve the system.
The second and third weapons in the legislative armoury to achieve the inquiry’s recommendations, the Public Guardian Act 2014 and the Family and the Child Commission Act 2014, commence on 1 July 2014, joining the currently operating Child Protection Reform Amendment Act 2014 (having commenced on 28 May 2014).
The Public Guardian Act 2014 establishes the Public Guardian and the Office of the Public Guardian, working to protect the rights of children and young people in out-of-home care – foster care, kinship care and residential care – and vulnerable adults who have impaired capacity. The Public Guardian will take over the community visitor program and provide general information and guidance about the child protection system in relation to making complaints, case planning, advocacy and mediation and most importantly, advocacy for children and young people in the system through a network of child advocacy officers. The current Adult Guardian, Kevin Martin, will be appointed the Public Guardian from 1 July 2014.
The Family and Child Commission Act 2014 creates the Family and Child Commission, reporting to the Premier. The Commission will provide oversight for the whole child protection system and cross-sector leadership, advice and research for the system.
The Child Protection Reform Amendment Act 2014 makes changes to child death reviews, the blue card system, complaints handling and the court system, as follows:
- Review of a child’s death will occur where a child dies or is seriously injured and they were known to Child Safety within 12 months of their death or injury (changed from three years).
- From 1 July 2014, independent child death reviews will be conducted by an independent multi-disciplinary panel to be formed by the Minister for Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services.
- From 1 July 2014, the blue card scheme operation is transferred to the Queensland Police Service (QPS). The administration of the blue card system will be transferred to a new government entity, the Public Safety Business Agency, to support the QPS.
- Reporting arrangements will change from early 2015 with clarification of when a report may be made to Child Safety to alleviate the demands on Child Safety.
- From 28 Mary 2014, the Children’s Court has a case management framework, overseen by the Chief Magistrate, for child protection matters to speed up matters to protect a child’s safety and wellbeing.
- From 1 July 2014, complaints about the child protection system are investigated by the relevant Government Department with oversight from the Ombudsman.
A coronial inquest currently being held, into the death of an 8 year old girl at the hands of her mother, is reviewing the role of government and other agencies in her death. It is hoped the reforms that are yet to be fully implemented make incidents like this a rarity in the future.