The Tasmanian Greens today welcomed the release of the House of Assembly Select Committee Inquiry into Child Protection’s Report, which is the culmination of over twelve months’ work.

Greens Children’s spokesperson, Paul O’Halloran MP, who moved the terms of reference to establish the Committee and has presided over it as Chair, said that through no fault of the dedicated professionals working within Child Protection the state’s system is under serious stress and struggling to cope.

Mr O’Halloran also said that the Committee’s Report presented 183 findings and has made 176 recommendations, and he urged a whole-of-government approach to implementing them.

“As a result of a Greens’ successful motion in October last year, the Select Committee into Child Protection was established as a consequence of the circumstances surrounding the prostitution of a 12 year old girl while under the guardianship of the Secretary. This was clearly a very sensitive and emotional task,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“The Committee found the state’s Child Protection is under serious stress and struggling to cope. This is through no fault of the dedicated professionals working within the system, the workers at the pointy end or the hundreds of foster carers, all of whom are doing their best under often very difficult circumstances with highly emotional, unpredictable and traumatic situations.”

“In Tasmania alone we have close to 20 000 notifications and 1000 children in out-of-home care. Child abuse and neglect comes at a huge cost to individuals, families, communities and taxpayers and is often generational in nature.”

“This tripartite committee report makes it clear that we expect action on the findings and recommendations made. A key recommendation is that the Commissioner for Children should oversee the implementation of recommendations, with the Minister providing regular updates to the Commissioner.” {pg 121 of the Report)

The Select Committee’s finding and recommendations include:

• The need for greater transparency and accountability;

• Greater consistency of processes and practices (with State and national systems) required;

• A focus on recruitment and retention of staff, including Child Protection workers and foster carers, with a strong focus of increasing capacity through investment in training and professional learning;

• Investment in early identification and intervention gives best value, including additional resources to family support services, specialist and universal support services (mental health, drug and alcohol, trauma, sexual assault etc). See Child and Family Centres, B-4 programs and Launching into Learning;

• Improve and make more responsive collaboration and communication systems between agencies, including an expansion Inter-Agency Support Teams (IAST). This should lead to improved consistency;

• Holistic assessments of children entering and leaving care plans for those exiting the system to be prioritised, and prioritise investment in the out of home care system;

• Alternatives to Ashley Youth Detention Centre must be found;

• Prioritise addressing the long-term contributors to child abuse and neglect – violence, drug use, mental health issues, addiction, and the educational needs of children in the Child Protection system;

• Clarify and strengthen the powers and functions of the Commissioner For Children, including greater access to information and having the capacity to conduct own motion inquiries. Section 80 of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act will need to amended to enable this;

• Overhaul the legislative framework within which the Child Protection system in Tasmania operates;

• Expand the Specialist Children’s Magistrate court model with a greater access to legal aid;

• One of the issues considered was the need for a broad ranging Commission of Inquiry into the case involving the 12 year old girl who was prostituted by her mother while in state care. The Committee noted the considerable community angst surrounding this matter, especially around the decision not to prosecute all those alleged to have had sex with the girl. Having carefully considered the matter, the Committee is of the view that on balance, a Commission of Inquiry is not the best course for responding to concerns. The Committee believes the Attorney-General must satisfy himself that the decision taken by the DPP not to prosecute was appropriate.

• The Committee also recommends that the review of the Criminal Code as it relates to offences against children by the government be expedited as a priority.

“On behalf of the Greens, I would like to thank my parliamentary colleagues, Jacquie Petrusma, Matthew Groom, Rebecca White and Brian Wightman for their hard work on this important inquiry,” Mr O’Halloran said.

The Select Committee Report can be found at:

Text of Greens’ Motion to establish the Select Committee, passed on 14 October 2010:

(1) A Select Committee be appointed, with power to send for persons and papers, with leave to sit during any adjournment of the House exceeding fourteen days, with leave to report from time to time and with leave to adjourn from place to place, to inquire into and report upon the adequacy of Tasmania’s child protection systems, including:-

(a) Early identification, intervention and prevention strategies currently in place within all relevant agencies including, the Department of Health and Human Services, (including Family Support and Child Protection Services), the Office of the Commissioner for Children, Department of Education, Department of Justice, Tasmania Police, and the non-government sector including Gateway service providers, and including comparison with child protection regimes in other Australian jurisdictions;

(b) Mechanisms currently in place, and where improvements can be made to enhance the integration between all relevant agencies to ensure that the welfare of any identified child at risk is paramount and that all agencies work together to provide best practice care and service delivery;

(c) Review the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997, including all proposed amendments to the Act as mentioned in the Tasmanian Government’s response to recommendations in the Commissioner for Children’s report on his inquiry into the circumstances of a 12 year old child under guardianship of the Secretary, October 2010;

(d) Other long term contributors to child abuse and neglect, such as poverty, drug and alcohol misuse and mental health issues;

(e) The appropriateness, and need for, any further inquiry including but not limited to a Commission of Inquiry as established under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1995; and

(f) Other matters incidental thereto.

(2) The Committee shall consist of five Members, being: two from the Government nominated by the Leader of the House; two from the Opposition nominated by the Leader of Opposition Business in the House; and one from the Tasmanian Greens nominated by the Leader of the Greens.

(3) The Committee report by 31 January next. (extended by Parliament to 15 Dec 2011)