Reading some of the reports of the latest massive failures by state agencies responsible for child protection is very distressing. See these media articles for examples:
- “Why won’t you protect the children, Premier?” in the West Australian
- “Children in protective care beaten, starved” in The Australian
- “Child abuse, neglect at critical level” by AAP (through SMH website)
I know this is an area where very fraught judgements have to be made, and it is impossible to stop all abuse and neglect of children, but there is no doubt we as a society fall far short of what we can achieve in protecting children at risk.
The fact that there are no failsafe solutions cannot be used an excuse for the lack of political priority given to the issue, which directly links to the chronic underfunding and bureaucratic incompetence that has happened in many states over many years. It’s sufficiently frustrating that I put out a media release on it today, which you can read below, to try to help build some pressure for wider action
ROYAL COMMISSION INTO CHILD PROTECTION STILL VITAL
Democrats’ Deputy Leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, has renewed calls for a Royal Commission into child abuse and neglect in Australia following the latest spate of major failures by State Government agencies to protect children at risk.
“Three years ago, the Senate agreed to a resolution urging for a Royal Commission into child sexual assault, but the Federal Government took no action, preferring to leave the issue to the States” Senator Bartlett said.
“Many of the States and Territories are continuing to fail in this most fundamental of tasks to help children at risk and protect them from serious harm.” “It is time this issue was made a national priority and given a national focus.”
“Whilst nationally uniform child protection laws, as being suggested by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, would assist, what we really need is more commitment to enforcing those laws and adequate resourcing for agencies to ensure our duty of care to vulnerable children is met.”
“Child protection agencies at State and Territory level have failed time and time again. The current controversies over failures to protect children in WA, NSW and the ACT are just the latest in a long line.”
“I know from my training as a social worker how incredibly difficult it can be to balance what options are in the best interests of a child at risk. It is an area where it is very easy to find fault but very hard to fix.”
“However, there is no doubt we can do far better than we currently are. It is time to properly examine how we do that, and get all levels of Government and politics to commit to it.” “A consistent factor in every inquiry by Coroners, Ombudsmen and others is severe under-resourcing and dangerously overworked staff.”
“We must look at whether Governments are really providing the necessary resources, and whether we as a society are really treating this issue as seriously as we should.” “Providing those resources would be very expensive, but we need to remember that the cost of failure in this area is much greater.”
“A child harmed through abuse and neglect is often harmed for life, and society pays the price along with the individual for decades to come,” Senator Bartlett said.