Department of Family and Community Services Child Death Statistics 2010

Page: 13827

Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT: My question is directed to the Minister for Family and Community Services. In light of the Minister's commitment to immediately and publicly report the deaths of any children known to the Department of Family and Community Services, how many children known to the department have died in 2012 and where has this been publicly reported?

Mr Chris Hartcher: You should ask that after what happened under your administration.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Terrigal will come to order. The member for Keira will come to order.

Ms PRU GOWARD: Indeed, what a disgrace following a government that lied and hid its work in child protection for 16 years. Given the efforts we have made to make the work of this department as public as possible, that is an incredible hide.

Ms Linda Burney: You made a promise.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Canterbury will come to order.

Ms PRU GOWARD: I made a promise to ensure that the public was made aware of the deaths of children.  That is why we publish an annual deaths report, in which we closely examine the practices of the department and look for opportunities to improve. That is also why, whenever a child's death is reported—and remember there are often very important legal reasons and privacy reasons involved, and not wanting to compromise police investigations—we can only comment in a small amount of detail. That is why, whenever we are asked to comment on a child's death, we have done exactly that. I undertook never to hide from a child's death. It is true that in 2010, as the annual report made clear, there were 139 deaths of children known to the Department of Community Services.  At the end of 2011 there were 110 deaths of children known to Community Services. This year, and unfortunately the shadow Minister does not appreciate that we have not got to the end of 2012—

Ms Linda Burney: You promised you would report to the Parliament.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Canterbury to order.

Ms PRU GOWARD: I am very happy to facilitate the member's question by advising that the latest statistics show that by August this year, a total of 44 deaths of children were known to the Department of Community Services, so we have gone from 139 to 110 to 44 so far.

Ms Linda Burney: Point of order: Standing Order 129. You promised—

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Canterbury will resume her seat. Members will not take a point of order and then begin to argue with a Minister. The Minister is being entirely relevant to the question asked. I call the member for Canterbury to order for the second time.

Ms PRU GOWARD: It is extraordinary.  I have answered the question.  I have answered a part of the question that was not anticipated because the member opposite thought that we had got to the end of 2012, whereas in fact we are five months away from that, so I would have thought the answer is pretty clear: 139, 110 and 44.  I did undertake to advise whenever a child had died, obviously within the constraints of the legal system and the need to protect the privacy of children, and that is exactly what we have done on every occasion.  That is an important part of reforming a system—a system that was allowed to fall into disrepair by a government that was more willing to be beholden to the restrictions on work practices imposed by a union that paraded behind its concern for children when in fact it was protecting work practices and stifling the department's capacity to respond.  Members opposite do not like admitting that they presided over a government that was beholden to a union that was more interested in protecting the jobs of its members than it was in protecting the lives of children.  (Source : http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20120815015?open&refNavID=HA8_1)

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