The State Government has introduced Australia-first laws that will allow courts to order chronically negligent parents to engage in parenting programs, or face a fine.
Child Protection Minister Sue Ellery said the Parental Support and Responsibility Bill 2005 was finally passed by the Upper House last night after almost three years of delays by the Opposition.
“This landmark Bill gives the Children’s Court the power to order parents who have repeatedly failed to control their children’s antisocial behaviour to participate in parenting programs,” Ms Ellery said.
“The inclusion of court-imposed orders to compel parents to obtain parental support if their children consistently cause trouble, such as truanting, graffiti and threatening behaviour, protects the children and the rest of the community.
“We need to support parents when their kids are in trouble. If we do not, there is a great risk that these children will need to be taken into State care, grow up with poorer education levels and become involved in serious antisocial or criminal behaviours such as drugs, theft and assault.”
The Minister said the Bill was strong on child protection by ensuring early intervention to prevent the petty crime of children developing into much more.
“The Bill includes the provision of voluntary programs for parents struggling to raise their children,” she said.
“However, some parents who need this support the most will not voluntarily participate.
“There is a need for courts to have legal powers to help parents help themselves and their children.”
Ms Ellery said because of repeated delays by the Opposition, the Bill had taken 880 days to pass through Parliament, demonstrating the Liberals’ inexperience and immaturity on important law and order issues.
She said the Bill was first introduced into the Legislative Assembly in June 2005; passed with support from the Liberals late in 2005; rejected by the Liberals in the Upper House in April 2007 (after they referred it to a committee); and finally passed last night when the Liberals in the Upper House changed their position again.
The Bill passed with amendments, accepted by the Government, including the reduction in the level of fines from $2,000 to $200. However, the core element of the Bill - the courts’ power to issue orders - remains intact.
“This Bill is part of the arrangements on which the State Government will rely to give effect to an agreement with the Federal Government to quarantine the welfare payments of those parents who are chronically neglecting their children,” the Minister said.
“The Federal Government will rely on the Western Australian Department for Child Protection to identify those parents.
“Parents’ willingness to participate in the parent support programs and/or comply with orders will influence whether the State will trigger that notification.”
Minister's office - 9213 7150