The South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) says that the child safety Bill introduced to the Parliament in a rush misses the mark and will do little to stem the tide of children and young people who are entering our child protection system.
Ross Womersley, SACOSS CEO, said, “In fact, this new Bill is weaker than the Child Protection Act 1993 because it effectively exempts the Minister from many of the functions held under the previous Act.”
“These include important early intervention and harm prevention functions such as family strengthening; parental education programs; partnership building; and supporting the Aboriginal community to establish its own programs to prevent and reduce the incidence of abuse."
“These were all obligations under the old legislation and they couldn’t be needed more today. We are extremely disappointed that despite its consultation the government has failed to take heed of the great majority of recommendations (made during consultation on the draft Bill) by an alliance of child advocates including SACOSS and the SA branch of the AMA.” [click here to see the alliance press release]
“What is most disappointing is that despite repeated assurances from the Government that their response to the Nyland Royal Commission would place due focus on early intervention, this has not happened. At best all we see here in this Bill is a focus on harm minimisation and response, once abuse or neglect has occurred.”
While SACOSS welcomes the Bill’s provisions reinstating the consultative role of gazetted Aboriginal organisations in the placement process for Aboriginal children and young people, we remain deeply concerned that this is undermined by a framework that only requires this, when it is reasonably practicable. Equally, the requirement that efforts be made to keep young people connected to their culture is framed as a “should” rather than as a “must”.
“As importantly, there is nothing in this Bill that is at all likely to help stem the flow of Aboriginal kids into the child protection system and into the juvenile justice system,” says Womersley.
We call on the Government to urgently work with us and other key stakeholders to change the legislation in way that ensures these concerns are addressed. Failing that, we ask members of the Opposition, Greens and other cross bench members of the Legislative Assembly to make the amendments required.
The image below is an excerpt of the 1993 Act outlining the functions of the Minister: