Victoria Premier Ted Baillieu
Victoria Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge
Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children: Inquiry Launched
Victor P Taffa
Premier Ted Baillieu today launched the inquiry Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children to comprehensively investigate systemic problems in Victoria’s Child Protection System and make recommendations to strengthen and improve the protection and support of vulnerable young Victorians.
The highly distinguished Review Panel, chaired by the Hon. Philip Cummins, together with Professor Dorothy Scott and Mr. Bill Scales, will investigate how to reduce child abuse and strengthen the protection of Victorian children who are at risk of, or who have experienced, neglect and/or abuse.
“Thousands of vulnerable, at-risk children were neglected by the previous Labor Government and its legacy is a Child Protection System in crisis.” Premier Baillieu said.
“We have a duty of care to protect our most vulnerable to ensure they are safe from harm and we are establishing this inquiry to identify the system’s weaknesses and provide practical recommendations to develop a strong support system for those in need.”
Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge said the inquiry will widely seek submissions, including from families and children who have been part of the Child Protection and out-of-home care System, to listen to their experiences and suggestions for improvement.
“The inquiry has broad terms of reference and will involve extensive consultation across the Victorian Community.” Ms. Wooldridge said.
“To make long-term, meaningful improvements to the way we support children and families, we need to fully understand the range of complex issues influencing the system what’s not working and what we need to do to address them.”
The inquiry will be supported by the Department of Premier and Cabinet and will provide a report with recommendations to the Minister for Community Services by 4 November 2011.
The report will be tabled in Parliament.
Terms of Reference
To inquire into and develop recommendations to reduce the incidence and negative impact of Child Neglect and Abuse in Victoria, with specific reference to:
- The factors that increase the risk of abuse or neglect occurring, and effective prevention strategies.
- Strategies to enhance early identification of, and intervention targeted at, children and families at risk including the role of adult, universal and primary services. This should include consideration of ways to strengthen the capability of those organisations involved.
- The quality, structure, role and functioning of:
- Family services;
- Statutory Child Protection Services, including reporting, assessment, investigation procedures and responses;
- Out-of-home care, including permanency planning and transitions; and what improvements may be made to better protect the best interests of children and support better outcomes for children and families.
- The interaction of Departments and Agencies, the courts and service providers and how they can better work together to support at-risk families and children.
- The appropriate roles and responsibilities of Government and Non-Government organisations in relation to Victoria’s Child Protection Policy and Systems.
- Possible changes to the processes of the courts referencing the recent work of and options put forward by the Victorian Law Reform Commission.
- Measures to enhance the Government’s ability to:
- Plan for future demand for family services, statutory Child Protection Services and out-of-home care;
- Ensure a workforce that delivers services of a high quality to children and families.
- The oversight and transparency of the child protection, care and support system and whether changes are necessary in oversight, transparency, and/or regulation to achieve an increase in public confidence and improved outcomes for children.
The Review will consider the above in the context of differences amongst Victorian children and families, such as Metropolitan and Regional location.
The Review Process
The Panel will make recommendations and provide advice to the government regarding the immediate, medium and longer term priorities to strengthen Victoria’s family, child protection and associated service systems, and improve outcomes for Victorian children at risk.
The Review will focus on policy and the service system that supports Government Policy and the panel will not consider or make recommendations regarding the circumstances of individual cases, nor review individual organisations.
The Panel may request input from an inquiry Reference Group on any matter it deems fit.
The Panel will also utilise and reference previous reports and reviews, available literature, interstate and international experience and seek submissions from and consult with:
- Relevant experts;
- Service providers (universal, adult, family and child protection);
- Front line workers and managers;
- Families and children who have personally experienced child protection and out-of-home care services;
- Foster and kinship carers;
- Police and courts;
- A broad range of Government Services (including early childhood, education, health and mental health, family violence and housing services).
The Panel will provide a report to the Minister for Community Services by 4 November 2011.
The Report will be tabled in Parliament.
The Honourable Philip D Cummins has had a long commitment to child protection. In 1993 he was the judge in the Supreme Court trial for the murder of Daniel Valerio, which was a catalyst for the introduction in Victoria of mandatory reporting of child abuse, which he recommended. Upon his retirement from judicial office in November 2009, he became Co-Patron, with the Governor, Professor David de Kretser AC, of Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia (CAPRA), based in the Medical Faculty at Monash University, and also undertook research in that Faculty into child abuse, with a particular focus on children’s experiences of the court process at all levels.
Mr. Cummins was a Queen’s Counsel in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT for 10 years prior to his appointment to the bench. He was Chairman of the Victorian Bar and Senior Vice-President of the Australian Bar. He was a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria from 1988 to 2009, sitting in all its divisions and in the Court of Appeal. He was Senior Judge of the Trial Division of the Court and Principal Judge of the Criminal Division. Upon commencement of his function as Chair of the Inquiry, Mr. Cummins will relinquish his research position in the Medical Faculty at Monash University and that of Co-Patron of CAPRA.
Emeritus Professor Dorothy Scott was the Foundation Chair of Child Protection and the inaugural Director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection at the University of South Australia until she retired in 2010. Previously she was Head of the School of Social Work at the University of Melbourne and the CEO of The Ian Potter Foundation, one of Australia’s largest Philanthropic Trusts.
Professor Scott has worked in the field of child protection and established the first sexual assault counselling service in Victoria in the 1970s. She has conducted several child protection inquiries and been an adviser to State and Commonwealth Governments. For her service to the community Professor Scott was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia and the Centenary Medal. The author of five books and many refereed articles, Professor Scott has been influential nationally and internationally in improving approaches to preventing and responding to child abuse and neglect.
Bill Scales AO will bring a broad range of experience from business, government and the community to the review panel. Mr. Scales currently holds the position of Chancellor at Swinburne University of Technology and is Chairman of the Port of Melbourne Corporation, a Panel Member of the Australian Government Review of Funding for Schooling, a Victorian Council Member and a Member of the National Education Advisory Committee of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Mr. Scales has also held positions as Chair and CEO of the Industry/Productivity Commission; Commissioner for the Australian Government’s Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission; Chair and CEO of the Automotive Industry Authority; Administrator of the City of Brimbank; Member of the Expert Reference Group to advise the Australian Government on regulatory matters related to the Higher Education Sector and chair and member of many other boards, councils and committees. Mr. Scales has also been awarded the Centenary Medal, Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia and is a Fellow in the Australian Institute of Company Directors and Institute of Public Administration Australia.