The new laws involve widespread change that ensures greater collaboration, quality of care and safety for children and young people across the state.
One of the major changes is that the guardianship function, previously undertaken by the Minister for Child Protection, will now be undertaken by the Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection. This is in line with a recommendation of the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission to ensure decision-making occurs as close as possible to the child.
Some of the fundamental changes to come into place include:
- Greater say for children and young people - Children and young people are encouraged to have greater say in the decisions that impact their lives, care and wellbeing.
- Timely decision-making and permanence - Decisions and actions to be made in a timely manner and, particularly in the case of young children, as early as possible.
- Better information sharing - Children and young people, as well as carers, will be provided with information about each other ahead of placement.
- Empowering carers - Greater recognition and entitlements for carers including better information sharing and rights to reviews.
- Cultural connection - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people will be provided with care and support that keeps them connected to strengthen their identity. This includes connection to family, culture, community and Aboriginal language and elevating the importance of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle into the legislation.
- Reviewable decisions - Certain decisions that the department makes are now reviewable. There is a process for internal reviews, which are conducted by the department, in addition to new external review channels for certain decisions such as contact arrangements.
- Collaboration - The department will work in partnership with families and agencies to find solutions to keep children safe. In addition, people who have a close relationship with the child, such as a family member, carer or counsellor, can now make submissions to the Youth Court on matters related to the child’s safety, stability and wellbeing.
- Empowered families - Families will be encouraged to contribute to decisions and take appropriate actions that will keep children safe.
- Safe and nurturing out-of-home care - Previously, the guardianship of a child in care sat with the Minister for Child Protection. This has now shifted to the Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection, ensuring decision-making occurs closer to the child.
The Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 now requires a priest or other ministers of religion to divulge information they receive through a confession.
This means ministers of religion are subject to strict mandatory reporting requirements, which will include information communicated during a confession. These strict reporting requirements continue to apply to others in the community, such as social workers, educators and police officers.
These changes aim to better protect children from potential harm, and align with the recommendations of the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
For more details visit the Attorney-General's Department website.
The old legislation used the terms ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’ as a way to describe when child protection actions can be taken. Under the new laws, we now refer to ‘harm’ instead. This change in language reflects the new laws foremost focus on the child, where ‘harm’ is the impact a behaviour has on a child, while ‘abuse and neglect’ is an action of a caregiver.
‘Harm’ recognises the scope of behaviours, including maltreatment, that can put a child at risk.
It is also important to note that the new laws definition of “at risk” with regards to a child or young person remains similar to the definition stated in the former Children’s Protection Act 1993.