- New measures to better protect children from abuse and neglect come into effect today
- The Children and Community Services Amendment Act 2021 includes a particular focus on strengthening connection to family, culture and Country for Aboriginal children in care
- Amendments deliver on key recommendations of the landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
- Reforms build on a suite of measures by the McGowan Government to strengthen the child protection system, including a $114 million boost to protect vulnerable children, support their families and help at-risk youth
The McGowan Government is continuing to boost the child protection system and deliver significant reform, with new measures to better protect children from harm coming into effect today.
The new amendments have a particular focus on strengthening connection to family, culture and Country for Aboriginal children in care.
The Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2021 was passed through State Parliament in October last year and delivers on recommendations made in the landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Key amendments coming into effect today include:
- Changes to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle to prioritise placements in closer proximity to the child's community if placement with family or an Aboriginal person in the child's community cannot be achieved;
- Stronger requirements to consult with Aboriginal people and Aboriginal representative organisations when making decisions about where an Aboriginal child should live;
- The requirement for the Department of Communities to provide the Children's Court with clear documentation about how an Aboriginal child's connection to family and culture will be supported, information on how the child's proposed new living arrangement meets the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle and evidence of the cultural consultation required to inform these decisions; and
- The requirement for certain public authorities prescribed in regulations to prioritise a request from the Department of Communities to provide assistance to a child in care, a child under a special guardianship order, or a care leaver who qualifies for assistance until they turn 25.
In line with Royal Commission recommendations, reporting of child sexual abuse will be made mandatory for early childhood workers, ministers of religion, out-of-home care workers, registered psychologists, school counsellors and youth justice workers. Assessors appointed under section 125A of the Act and officers of the Department of Communities will also become mandatory reporters.
The mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse will be brought into operation in a staged way later this year, to ensure those affected receive the necessary training and support to fulfil their new reporting obligations.
The first new reporter group to be introduced is ministers of religion from November 1, 2022.
The reforms are part of a range of measures introduced by the McGowan Government to strengthen the child protection system.
Under the 2022-23 State Budget, the McGowan Government is investing an additional $114 million into the child protection system for early intervention, new frontline staff and expansions of programs to support at-risk youth and their families.
Details on the amendments included in the Children and Community Services Amendment Act 2021 and resources are available online.
Comments attributed to Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk:
"The McGowan Government is committed to protecting vulnerable children and keeping families safely together and these reforms will ensure this important work continues well into the future.
"The reforms complement the State Government's $114 million boost to the child protection system and provide practical and tangible steps to better protect vulnerable children from harm.
"We are continuing to deliver on our commitment to work closely with Aboriginal people to ensure they are at the centre of decisions that impact their children, families and communities.
"Significantly, the expansion of mandatory reporting laws sends a clear message that child safety comes first - and for perpetrators, that there is nowhere to hide.
"The protection of children and young people is absolutely paramount. I would like to again acknowledge the strength and bravery of those who spoke publicly of their personal experiences through the Royal Commission. Your candour and courage helped shape meaningful, lasting reform."
Minister's office - 6552 6600