State Cabinet today approved a comprehensive overhaul of South Australia’s child protection laws and strategies to improve and sharpen the way in which Government responds to the needs and welfare of children in care.
Premier Mike Rann says the review will be conducted by prominent Adelaide lawyer, Ms Robyn Layton QC.
"This review is urgent in light of the recent allegations of sexual abuse of school children. Of principal concern is the alleged sexual abuse of children in school settings and other institutions and the desire to see such incidents dealt with appropriately.
"I also want to make sure mandatory reporting of such incidents is adhered to.
"All of this is coupled with the need to ensure the welfare and needs of children at the Federal Government’s detention centre at Woomera are being met.
"Every decent society must ensure the protection of children from abuse and where incidents of abuse are found or suspected, that they are dealt with quickly and appropriately.
"There is nothing more sickening to me and to all parents than the abuse of children by adults who cynically prey on their vulnerabilities and innocence. Child abuse often wrecks lives. It is an evil that requires the toughest response from Government."
Social Justice Minister Stephanie Key said the number of mandatory notifications of abuse of children in South Australia has increased by more than 6000 in the past four years – from about 10,000 in 1996-97 to 16,300 in 2000-01.
"This appalling statistic highlights the need to ensure that the review of our response to child abuse is broad and integrated. An effective child protection response includes a range of services including health, police, education, housing, community services, non-government agencies, community groups and churches.
"The Child Protection Review will focus on three main areas:
- the Department of Health and Social Justice policies, practices and procedures;
- whole of government strategies needed to provide a co-ordinated and integrated response for the protection of children; and
- advise about proposed legislation to ensure organisations that care for children can protect them from sexual abuse and physical violence (this would include the need for fit and proper screening procedures as well as training)
"I would expect the review, which will consult widely across the whole of the state including regional centres, will be completed by December 2002."
Terms of Reference for Review of Child Protection in South Australia
(a) To deliver a plan to the Minister of Social Justice that provides effective strategies to improve the provision of child protection services in this State and ensure better outcomes for children, young people and their families.
In doing this, the Review will:
- Review Department of Human Services policy, practice and procedures and include both government and DHS funded services;
- Determine the effectiveness of the legislation, practices and services in protecting children and young people;
- Provide advice on early intervention and prevention strategies that prevent abuse of children;
- Ensure particular attention is given to the needs of indigenous children and their families; and
- Consider whether current Acts (Children’s Protection Act 1993 and Family and Community Services Act 1973) adequately provides for the care and protection of children and young people and provide advice on any legislative reform.
(b) Examine the adequacy of the SA criminal law and police procedures in dealing with child abuse.
(c) Provide advice to government on the strategies and systems required to achieve a whole of government coordinated and integrated response to the protection of children.
(d) Provide advice to government and consider legislation to ensure organizations protect children from sexual and physical violence whilst in their care. Particular attention will be given to screening mechanisms for checking suitability of employees/volunteers, policies, procedures and training.