In the best interests of the child

The safety, protection and well-being of our children will always remain my priority issue.

I need your help to make Queensland the safest place in Australia to raise a child – starting in Macalister!

Australia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) in December 1990 and as such is required to uphold its principles.  The fundamental principle is that ‘all decisions made, and actions taken, should be ‘in the best interests of the child’.  Sadly, this is not the case currently.

If every decision made and action taken by government were first measured against, and then amended to meet, the ‘best interests of the child’ test, we would already be the safest place in the world to raise a child.

If elected, I will ensure, to the best of my ability, that all legislation that passes the House, all decisions made and actions taken, are tested against the UNCROC requirement that:

  • In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

I am keen to revisit the education and child protection curriculum and prevention programs delivered in Queensland.  We need to get this right and there is much work to do in order to achieve this.  I am keen to work with the experts in our community including our teachers, day-care centre professionals and others to test my ideas, to agree on a new way and then to lobby for change.

Child Safety in Queensland

Child Safety is not the domain on of any one Government Department. It is a shared responsibility. However, that shared responsibility is currently unco-ordinated and ineffective. As well, the culture of secrecy that is so much the culture within the Department of Child Safety needs to be focused on the protection of children – not the protection of the system itself.

This needs to change.

I believe the Qld Child and Family Commission should report to Parliament rather than the Premier.  This would provide the genuine transparency that is so badly missing today.

In addition, I believe we need a dedicated Minister for Statutory Child Safety.  The sole duty of that Minister should be to protect the children who do not have a parent willing and/or able to protect them and those in the Statutory Care system or at serious risk of entering it. To be the State parent, and a good one.  It is a huge role with a huge responsibility.  Focus is required.

In my view, we also need a dedicated Minister for Children, a senior Ministerial position, whose role it would be to oversee, direct and ensure the general safety and protection of all Queensland children across all government departments.  A senior Minister focused on the ‘best interests of the child’ – all children whether they be Indigenous, disabled, vulnerable, abused – or safe and happy– all children and all departments involved in all issues effecting children.

A senior Minister whose Department provides primary and secondary prevention services to enable parents and families who are willing, but need help to remain able to do all they can to protect their children and keep them safe.  To enable all sectors of the community to implement the best interests of the child.  To oversee new initiatives like Child Advocacy Centres – ensuring all children and protective parents have services available to them that focus on the best interests of the child as their first priority – services that overcome the hurdles that currently exist.  For example, the different tests applied by different departments: the balance of probabilities vs beyond reasonable doubt vs willing and able vs best interests.

A senior Minister who would oversee and implement effective holistic prevention practices and services across Queensland and across all government departments.  Child abuse prevention should be a priority for government and yet, despite recommendations to that effect in every report ever written on child safety, it hasn’t happened.

Historically, the need is so great at the bottom of the hill that it diverts all the potential resources from the top.  Departments of child safety can only see the bottom of the hill – responding to the bottom of the hill is how they are measured; the need is great and that is where their attention and resources are spent.

Meanwhile, our children at the top of the hill continue to scream for help as they fall victim to preventable harm.

Queensland must invest in prevention.  We must invest in protecting our children and building resilience.  We must invest in stopping offenders from offending.  Empowering communities, educating children and young people.  We must inform ourselves and all those who live and work with children.

That is a huge reason for running in this State election.  I hope to get the opportunity to educate and inform my fellow MP’s, to raise awareness with the States leaders and lawmakers, those who will ultimately decide on the level of safety we provide our children.  I want to do everything I can to ensure our children and communities are as safe as they possibly can be.  If elected, this will be a priority goal.

Child Advocacy Centres

Bravehearts have been lobbying for some time for the introduction of Child Advocacy Centres (CAC’s) in Queensland and indeed, Australia.  A CAC is a multi-disciplinary reporting, investigation, support and advocacy centre built around the best interests of the child.

The CAC is for children who make disclosures of harm and for their protective parent or carer.  It is where children are immediately interviewed by specially trained clinical experts or Police, where a recording of interview is kept as evidence to the court, where a multi-disciplinary team immediately compile ‘balance of probability’ reports for use by civil and criminal courts and where the best interests of the child is paramount.

Child Safe – Work Place Health and Safety Policy

Organisations that involve children in their workplace in any way, as employees, as volunteers, as customers, as visitors or in any other way, should have a strong interest in keeping children safe in those environments.

Queensland’s Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011 took effect on 1 January 2012 and is based on the national model WHS legislation developed by Safe Work Australia.  It applies to all Queensland workplaces, with only a few exceptions.  The WHS regulator in Queensland is Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, under the Department of Justice and Attorney General.

The WHS legislation needs to expand and also address the specific threats to the safety of children in those workplaces.  Every Institution, organisation, business and club need to be aware of, and responsive to, the unique safety requirements of children.

Queensland’s obligations under the UNCROC would then be satisfied in respect of measuring the current legislation against the ‘best interests of children’ requirement.

This is why I have called on the Royal Commission for amendments to the Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation to incorporate the specific risks posed to children in those same workplaces.  Not new legislation and a whole new regime, but amending the current framework already in place to include the special safety needs of children.

The best interests of children would then be included in all existing workplace policy regimes, practice training, regular audits and reporting requirements that are already now in place to protect adults in the workplace.

I am sure that the accompanying cultural change we have experienced in our everyday lives since the introduction of the WHS legislation will be replicated and likewise, will have a positive flow-on impact on our day to day awareness of the threats to children’s safety across the wider community.

I expect that this will also impact on the insurance sector and the ability for organisations to insure against unavoidable or mitigated risk to children in their workplace.

Implementing effective child safe policies and practices is the best way for all organisations, businesses and corporations to protect the children with whom they interact.