Queensland’s Family and Child Commission chief Cheryl Vardon has been hand-picked by the State Government to chair its new independent Child Death Review Board, which will examine child death cases.
The announcement comes in the wake of a recent spate of news reports surrounding Child Safety and a scathing coroner’s report that revealed systemic flaws in the Department of Child Safety that lead to the death of toddler Mason Jet Lee at his northern Brisbane home on 11 June 2020.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the implementation of the board arose out of a recommendation by the Queensland Family and Child Commission report, ‘A systems review of individual agency findings following the death of a child’.
State Parliament passed legislation creating the board this year.
Ms Vardon – who is Family and Child Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer – brings considerable expertise in conducting system reviews and providing systemic oversight, particularly into the child and family support sector, and is recognised for her leadership in the protection of vulnerable children and young people.
The Child Death Review Board will be hosted by the Queensland Family and Child Commission; however, the functions of the board are independent from the commission and government departments.
Ms D’Ath said the board would conduct systemic reviews following deaths of Queensland children and young people known to the child protection system.
“The loss of a child, in any circumstances, is a tragedy,” she said. “When a child known to the child protection system dies, it’s imperative that we learn from these tragedies and remain vigilant to support improvements of systems that come in contact with vulnerable children and young people and, where possible, help prevent future deaths.
“The board is one part of an expanded child death review process in Queensland. It will make sure all systems, not just Child Safety, are considered for necessary changes to promote the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people.
“The board, with Ms Vardon as the chairperson, will act independently and in the public interest to promote ongoing learnings to keep our most vulnerable children and young people safe.”
Ms Vardon said the Child Death Review Board would enable vital work to strengthen the child and family support system.
“Each and every child death saddens me deeply,” Ms Vardon said.
“The board will be made up of six non-government representatives and five government representatives across the Queensland Police Service, Queensland Health, Education, Youth Justice and Child Safety in addition to myself as chairperson. The board will always have at least one Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander representative.
“The varied expertise on this board will lead to greater strength to the systems providing support to children and young people, as we all continue to do our part to keep Queensland’s children and young people more than safe.”