Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 22, 2023


Aboriginal Children and Young People in Care

The Hon. S.L. GAME (14:38): I seek leave to make a brief explanation prior to addressing a question to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, representing the Minister for Child Protection, on the coronial inquest into the death of Zhane Chilcott.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.L. GAME: It's now approaching seven years since 13-year-old Zhane Chilcott tragically took his own life on 12 July 2016 at a residential care facility. Zhane had been rotated through 18 different placements over his short life and, despite multiple red flags being raised in the Department for Child Protection, he received only one visit on average per year by the Child and Young Person's Visitor between 2005 and 2011. Reports in TheAdvertiser say that the last foster carer whom Zhane was placed with had funding reduced, just as Zhane had settled and began showing signs of improvement. Unfortunately, the foster carer was forced to relinquish Zhane, as he could not meet Zhane's needs with the reduced funding.

In Kate Alexander's November 2022 Trust in Culture review of the child protection system in South Australia, it is noted that a coronial inquest heard evidence in 2021 and that the date for handing down its findings is not yet known. Carers have expressed concern that the DCP manual of practice is not being followed to prevent child harm. Given the chief executive's resignation, effective 26 April 2023, the full inquest with recommendations should be released publicly prior to her departure, and I note that parliament is not sitting in April this year.

There appear to be multiple learning opportunities for DCP, foster carers and the community to ensure the likelihood of a reoccurrence in child protection does not occur again. My questions to the minister representing the child protection minister are:

1. Has the minister or her department received the findings and recommendations of Zhane Chilcott's coronial inquest and, if not, why not?

2. Does the minister believe seven years is a suitable delay before acting on recommendations that could prevent further child deaths and serious injuries from occurring?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:40): I thank the honourable member for her question. I will refer it to the Minister for Child Protection in the other place and bring back a response.