Queensland Law Society is “disappointed” with proposed changes to government child protection laws.
The Society says they could result in a disproportionate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the “out-of-home care system” being adopted and forever cut off from parental and cultural ties.
The Society this week voiced its reservations on the Child Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020, which was formulated in response to a coroner’s report citing significant systemic child safety failures prior to the horrific death of toddler Mason Jet Lee in 2016.
In a nine-page submission to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Commission, QLS President Luke Murphy said it was “disappointing” that less than three weeks was given for stakeholders to provide submissions on laws which could have life-changing and significant impact on children in care.
The State Government introduced the Bill on 14 July in the wake of recommendations made by Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley, who found child safety officers failed the Caboolture child – who was unlawfully killed by his mother and step-dad – “in nearly every possible way”.
The government deadline for submissions on the Bill was Monday 3 August.
Ms Bentley, in findings delivered on 2 June, recommended consideration be given to adoption as a suitable option for children in “out-of-home” care, particularly for those aged under three, in cases where family reunification was unlikely.
“Due to the significant impact this legislation will have, (QLS) considers (the) consultation timeframe (given by the government) is inadequate,” Mr Murphy said.
“It is at these times where we, as a community, must not look for quick legislative solutions to complex issues.
“It is a time where we, as a community, must come together to ensure that the best interests of all children are protected and the systems failures and inequities are acknowledged and addressed.
“This must also come with recognition of the need that these very frameworks and systems…are funded appropriately to address the increasing demands for child safety services.”
The submission, compiled by the QLS Children’s Law, Family Law and First Nations legal policy committees, recommends the coroner’s call for adoption as an option for children in care be ditched in favour permanent care orders (PCO), which already exist and allow for children to be cared for and also maintain familial relationships.
It also voices the Society’s “exceptional concern” about the impact of the reforms on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – who are “over-represented” in the child care system.
“The proposed amendment is unnecessary…(as) PCOs are already available…and were established to permit long-term guardianship of a child to a suitable person, other than the parent,” Mr Murphy said.
“PCOs provide permanence and stability for children…whilst retaining connectedness with family, community and culture, identity and language.”
QLS is scheduled to speak in detail on its submission at a parliamentary committee meeting on Monday.