New Queensland Child protection legislation receives assent

The Child Protection Reform Amendment Bill 2017 (the Bill) which was initially introduced into the Queensland House of Assembly on 9 August 2017, by the Hon Shannon Fentiman MP (Member for Waterford), has now received Assent [enacted as the Child Protection Reform Amendment Act 2017, Act No 44 of 2017] with the Act commencing on 10 November 2017.

Background

According to the Bill’s Summary, the objectives will be to:

  • promote positive long-term outcomes for children in the child protection system through timely decision making and decisive action towards either reunification with family or alternative long-term care;
  • promote the safe care and connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with their families, communities and cultures;
  • provide a contemporary information sharing regime for the child protection and family support system, which is focused on children’s safety and well-being; and
  • support the implementation of other key reforms under the Supporting Families Changing Futures program (the reform program) and address identified legislative issues.

The new legislation will amend the following Queensland acts:

  • Child Protection Act 1999;
  • Director of Child Protection Litigation Act 2016;
  • Adoption Act 2009; and
  • Public Guardian Act 2014.

The Need for Change

In July 2013, the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry (the Commission of Inquiry) released its report, Taking Responsibility: A Road Map for Queensland Child Protection (the Report).

As part of the Queensland Government’s Supporting Families Changing Futures reform program, the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services undertook a comprehensive review of Queensland’s child protection laws, which are contained in the Child Protection Act 1999 (the Act).

The review found that Queensland’s child protection legislation is generally operating effectively, but the need for priority amendments and opportunities for broad legislative reform were identified.

As outlined in the Bill’s Explanatory Notes:

“… The Commission of Inquiry made 121 recommendations to reform the child protection system over the next decade. The Palaszczuk Government committed to reform program arising from the Commission of Inquiry as part of the Supporting Families Changing Futures reforms.”

The Commission of Inquiry also recommended specific changes to the Child Protection Act 1999 (the Act), including that:

  • the Minister move amendments to forbid the making of consecutive short-term orders that together extend beyond two years, unless it is in the best interests of the child to make the orders (part of recommendation 13.4), and 
  • the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (the department) review the existing information exchange and confidentiality provisions in the Act and propose that the Minister move any necessary amendments (recommendation 14.2).” 

In the Minister’s Explanatory Speech [9 August 2017, pg 2093], the Minister commented:

“… This bill proposes priority amendments that will make significant improvements in how we can respond to the needs of children and young people in out-of-home care today. One of the keys to supporting the needs of children and young people in out-of-home care today is providing greater options for permanency and stability …”

Outcome of the Changes

The Bill’s Explanatory Notes outlines the aim of the legislative changes, which will include promoting positive long-term outcomes for children in the child protection system by, in part:

  • amending the paramount principle for administering the Act to refer to the safety, well-being and best interests of children both through childhood and for the rest of a child’s life;
  • inserting new permanency principles for ensuring a child’s best interests, with consideration of relational, physical and legal permanency in decision making for children who need ongoing intervention under the Act;
  • preventing courts from making or extending short-term child protection orders where the combined total duration of an order or consecutive orders would be more than two years unless it is in the best interests of a child to do so; and
  • removing the need for a court to reconsider certain matters it has previously determined, when varying or revoking a long-term guardianship order for a child and making another long-term guardianship order or a permanent care order for the child, unless the court is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances in the best interests of the child to do so.

New Child Protection Safeguards

The legislation also provides for improved safeguards to guard a child against the inappropriate sharing of sensitive information by prioritising children’s safety, well-being and best interests of the child.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.

Sources:

Child safety legislation reform

Directions Statement

Child Protection Reform Amendment Bill 2017 (Qld) - Supporting information available from TimeBase LawOne Service.

Source : https://www.timebase.com.au/news/2017/AT04481-article.html

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