Legislative Council: Thursday, September 08, 2022


Child Protection

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:32): I seek leave to make a brief explanation—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! I want to hear the question.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question on the topic of child death and serious injury reporting to the minister representing the Minister for Child Protection.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: As members are aware, there are currently several reviews underway into child protection in our state. There is of course the review of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017, as well as the review being led by former police commissioner Mal Hyde into what interactions government departments had with the families of Charlie and Makai and the appropriateness and effectiveness of the current systems in place.

Of course, there is also the independent post-coronial review being undertaken by Kate Alexander, scrutinising the government's progress in implementing recommendations of previous child protection inquests. There is also an ongoing review into the South Australian foster and kinship care system. These reviews are important and necessary, but I and others are left wondering how effective they can be without complete information.

Under the Children and Young People (Oversight and Advocacy Body) Act 2016, which continued the Child Death and Serious Injury Review Committee work, one of the functions of that committee is to 'maintain a database of child deaths and serious injuries and their circumstances and causes'.

I have had concerns raised with me by South Australian carers that the 2021 annual report of this committee shows that it did not use its power to properly record serious injuries for children. In fact, all of the annual reports for this committee that we can see since its creation focus solely on child deaths and contain no reporting on serious injuries at all.

My office then referenced the data.sa.gov.au website. There is only one dataset available from this committee which contained last year's child death statistics, but even then, again, nothing available for serious injuries. More concerningly, when contacted via the parliamentary library, as well as my office, the committee advised that the committee's main focus is apparently just child deaths.

They went on to say that their understanding was that the intent of the act was to give the committee leeway to investigate cases of serious injury where they are similar in nature to cases resulting in death, not to create an obligation to collect comprehensive serious injury data. This is despite serious injuries being both in the name of the committee and listed in their functions under the act. My questions to the child protection minister, via the minister representing her here, are:

1. Is it the role of the Child Death and Serious Injury Review Committee to review and report on serious injuries experienced by children in our state?

2. How can we effectively review South Australia's child protection system when we are not keeping data on serious injuries experienced by children, particularly in care, and their circumstances and causes?

3. How is a committee that is supposed to 'review cases in which children die or suffer serious injury with a view to identifying legislative or administrative means of preventing similar cases of death or serious injury in the future' meant to do that if they are not collecting, maintaining, reviewing or reporting on serious injuries?

4. Finally, how is this committee, which is supposed to 'make and monitor the implementation of recommendations for avoiding preventable child death or serious injury', doing their job if they are not doing this?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:35): I thank the honourable member for her question on a very important topic. I will refer that to the Minister for Child Protection in the other place and bring back a response to the chamber.