Our Opinion

PeakCare’s election wishes

Queensland is less than half way through the ten year road map recommended by the Carmody Child Protection Commission of Inquiry for reforming the child protection system. With the Inquiry having been commissioned by the former LNP Government led by Campbell Newman and the roadmap to reform having been initiated by that government and then continued and built upon by the ALP Palaszczuk Government, much has been achieved but there is more to be completed.

The Carmody Inquiry identified the major causes of systemic failures in child protection as too little money spent on early intervention, a risk-averse culture that focuses too heavily on coercive rather than supportive strategies and overreacts to hostile media and community scrutiny, and a tendency for all parts of society to shift responsibility onto the child safety department.

The child protection system is one where the stakes are high and children’s lives are often dependent on no mistakes being made. Understandably, there is little tolerance or forgiveness shown by the media or general public if and when a mistake occurs and any mistake almost inevitably becomes potential fodder for political mudslinging. There is a challenge to be faced by either a returned ALP government or an incoming LNP government in maintaining a reform agenda that emphasises the importance of prevention and early intervention when the price of even a single error or lapse in judgement can lead to not only a tragic outcome for a child and family, but also the de-railing of a whole program of reforms when the system reverts back to its risk-averse state. How can a newly formed State Government – of any political persuasion – deal with this challenge?

PeakCare’s Wish List

Irrespective of the outcomes of the forthcoming election, the following is PeakCare’s non-exhaustive list of matters that a newly formed Government must attend to:

  1. Government must continue to build on the reform agenda set by the Carmody Inquiry by increasing its investment in family support and early intervention, and the renewal and expansion of its investment in community and neighbourhood centres as hubs for the delivery of timely case work, referrals and other supports to stop unnecessary escalation of children and families into the tertiary child protection system;
  2. Government must increase its allocations to the Education Support Funding Program to match the increased demand for access to this program arising out of a welcomed broadening of the eligibility criteria;
  3. Government must increase its investment in the development and implementation of specialised child protection, mental health, housing, education and other support services specifically targeted to, and suitable for, young people to divert them from unnecessary, damaging and prolonged involvement with the youth justice system;
  4. Government must maintain its commitment to the 20 year Our Way strategy, continue to be guided by the Family Matters campaign, respect the right held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to self-determination reflected in recently passed Child Protection Reform Amendments legislation and act on the Queensland Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into service delivery in remote and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities;
  5. Government must increase its level of transparency by making more commissioned reports and reviews, allocations of grants, performance data and accreditation reports publicly available;
  6. Government must seek to place complex areas of human service delivery such as child protection ‘above politics’ and invite bi-partisanship in seeking the best solutions identified by research and an evidence-base;
  7. Relating to the above point, Government is challenged to trial an alternative to the current Estimates Debate process. The manner in which this process is currently conducted does not honour the intentions of the debate in promoting Government accountability and transparency, has degenerated into an embarrassing display of bad behaviour by politicians, cripples government departments for weeks leading into the debates as they frantically cobble together information that may be needed to defend themselves and their Minister, and quite simply has become a waste of taxpayer money. Government is challenged to partner with academics, peak bodies, representative and other industry groups to develop and trial an alternative process that, through the involvement of these other parties, is better placed to facilitate a genuine, impartial and democratic inquiry. Contemporary trends in relation to the development of citizen juries that are attracting the interest of some prominent current and former politicians from all sides of politics may provide some worthwhile clues about the design of an alternative process. There can be no better topic than child protection to be made the subject of this trial.

Let us know your views about PeakCare’s wish list or the items you have on your own list, by entering comments below or by emailing lwegener@peakcare.org.au.

Lindsay Wegener
Executive Director
PeakCare Queensland

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  1. Dani Pack on November 8, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Yes. I would love to be involved in ” citizen jury” is that similar to a group in SA called social demoracacy. More flexibility, financial understanding support. Bring on Professional Care Model. I don’t understand why the models of interest are from overseas when there is a model here in QLD. Jobs for QLD’s by QLD’s for QLDers. How true blue would that be. There is so much more to do. Why don’t QLD have the best child protection system in the world.

  2. Lindsay Wegener on November 10, 2017 at 11:48 am

    PeakCare would like to add a Human Rights Act to our list of election wishes. The history of child protection has featured extreme violations of human rights for which governments have had to apologise to several groups of Australian citizens – Forgotten Australians, the Stolen Generations, those incarcerated when children in adult mental health facilities, victims of force adoptions… How many more times can we say we’re sorry before a Human Rights Act is introduced to protect the rights of vulnerable children, young people, families and other Queensland citizens?

  3. Paul Testro on November 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks PeakCare for the opportunity to comment on the election ‘wish list’. I strongly support the wish that ‘Government must maintain its commitment to the 20 year Our Way strategy, continue to be guided by the Family Matters campaign, respect the right held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to self-determination reflected in recently passed Child Protection Reform Amendments legislation and act on the Queensland Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into service delivery in remote and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.’
    The Our Way strategy notes that a generational approach is required to turn the system around and improve the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children including reducing their disproportionate representation in out of home care. As such, a bipartisan approach is necessary to provide consistency and promote sustainability over time. If we are serious about addressing the underlying causes of trauma, disadvantage and the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care, this cannot be left to the vagaries of the political cycle and changes in government.

  4. Jenny Whitworth on November 15, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    Agree Paul. As I said when I posted this election wishlist on LinkedIn: I’m really hoping all of Qld’s child protection and family support sector gets behind some common demands for this Election: let’s PLEASE have bipartisan agreement to stay on track: eg. let’s finish (and continually improve on) the Carmody Recommendations, before throwing it all out – again 😉 – and starting over – again. *sigh* And LOVE the idea to trial Citizen Juries! Well done PeakCare. This is a huge opportunity!

  5. Smart Thinking 99 on November 20, 2017 at 8:45 am

    The idea of replacing the Estimates Debates with an alternative process is a good one. Surely both sides can’t be happy with how these debates take place at the moment. it’s an innovative idea PeakCare – congratulations. I hope that others enter comments supporting it. Maybe then our dissatisfaction with how the debates are currently being conducted will register.

  6. Doubting Thomas on November 20, 2017 at 8:48 am

    I don’t think it’s realistic to seek bi-partisanship. It would be good, but it won’t happen.

  7. Hope and Healing advocate on November 20, 2017 at 8:55 am

    I’m surprised that you didn’t include the Hope and Healing Framework in your list. It’s a sound framework for residential care and the workshops you have been running are making a discernible difference. We still have a long way to go in fully implementing the framework however and I would hope to see that any incoming government will maintain a commitment to this framework and ensure that it is adequately resourced.

  8. Frustrated on November 20, 2017 at 9:30 am

    I strongly support the need to develop more specialised responses for young people across government portfolios. I’m very concerned that recently announced LNP youth justice policies but fear that both parties don’t fully appreciate that most young people who come into contact with the youth justice system have also been involved with child protection. We can’t suddenly switch from seeing them as children in need of protection to delinquents in need of punishment. It’s much more complex than that and child protection practitioners should be advocating much more strongly about the needs and best interests of these young people.

  9. Sammi Lillie on November 24, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    ANTaR Qld strongly supports the need for bipartisan, whole of government responses to address the issue of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care. The continued support from both sides of government for the 20 year Our Way strategy and Changing Tracks Action Plan is vital to ensure over-representation is addressed. One of the key concerns recently raised by UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz was the Australian government’s continued failure to respect the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to self-determination through full and effective participation and saw this as a major contributor to the escalating child removal rates. Qld’s legislative changes that support self-determination and the inclusion of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Child Placement Principle in full, now need to translate across to processes and procedures to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Children remain connected to family and culture. Governments need and should be accountable to ensure that the over-representation is addressed.

  10. Lindsay Wegener on November 24, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    PeakCare congratulates the Benevolent Society on the release of their eloquent and powerful statement, ‘How do we prioritise the life of a child?’ on the eve of the State Election. PeakCare commends The Benevolent Society for exercising their leadership role within the community services sector and strongly supports the messages contained within their statement.

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