Queensland marks another step in child safety reform journey

Published Friday, 01 July, 2016 at 03:18 PM

Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
The Honourable Shannon Fentiman

The Palaszczuk Government has taken another important step in its reform of the child protection system, with new laws coming into effect today to make the system more responsive to the needs of vulnerable children and their families.

Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman said the new laws, the Child Protection Reform Amendment Act 2016 and Director of Child Protection Litigation Act 2016, will support reforms to how matters are dealt with in the Childrens Court.

“These new laws will strengthen processes in the Childrens Court in Queensland to give a greater voice to children and their families,” Ms Fentiman said.

“Every day, the Childrens Court makes decisions that can have significant impacts on children and their families.

“These reforms will ensure the most relevant information is provided to the court and that children and families have a real opportunity to put their views across about decisions that affect them.

“This is an important part of our Supporting Families, Changing Futures reform agenda, which is all about supporting families to keep their children safely at home.”

The laws implement a number of recommendations made by the 2013 Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry.

Along with the broader court reform program, they enable children and families to have a stronger voice in child protection proceedings by:

  • clarifying the role of various representatives for a child during proceedings, including a separate legal representative appointed by a Court to act in a child‘s best interests during proceedings; and
  • providing a court with the ability to allow a person who is significant to the child to participate in proceedings.   

Ms Fentiman said the changes were designed to help the court be as fully informed as possible of all relevant information, so it can make decisions in the best interests of the child.

Other measures in the new laws include supporting the establishment of the Office of the Child and Family Official Solicitor within the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, which will improve the way evidence is prepared to support child protection order applications.

The Director of Child Protection Litigation Act 2016 supports the establishment of an independent statutory agency within the Justice portfolio.

Mr Nigel Miller was recently appointed as Queensland’s first Director of Child Protection Litigation and will be responsible for independently deciding whether an application for a child protection order should be made for a child, and if so what type of order, as well as conducting the proceedings before a court.

“My department is also conducting a broader review of the Child Protection Act 1999 as part of the Palaszczuk Government’s Supporting Families, Changing Futures reform agenda,” Ms Fentiman said.

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