The Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2021 has been introduced to the Legislative Assembly.
The amendments the new Bill seeks to introduce will support better outcomes for children in care, their families and the community, particularly for Aboriginal children.
The amendments will implement the recommendations of the 2017 Statutory Review of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission).
The Bill supports stronger implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child placement principle. This will help to promote family and cultural connections for Aboriginal children in care.
The Bill introduces a requirement to consult with an Aboriginal representative organisation approved by the CEO before making a placement for an Aboriginal child. This is in addition to consultation with the child’s Aboriginal family and an Aboriginal staff member with relevant knowledge of the child, the child’s family or the child’s community.
The approved Aboriginal representative organisations will also have the opportunity to participate in the development of an Aboriginal child’s cultural support plan and its review.
Alongside these amendments, an Aboriginal Family Led Decision Making (AFLDM) pilot will be commencing in the Midwest/Gascoyne and Mirrabooka from October 2021. It is one of the initiatives that complements the amendments. The AFLDM process supports the right to self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to make decisions on how to keep their child or young person safe and connected to their community.
One of the important changes is the introduction of new groups of people as mandatory reporters of child sexual abuse. The Royal Commission recommended that state and territory governments should amend laws concerning mandatory reporting to child protection authorities to achieve minimum national consistency in reporter groups.
The Bill proposes to expand the mandatory reporters of child sexual abuse to youth justice workers, early childhood workers, psychologists, school counsellors, people in religious ministry and all Department of Communities staff.
Debate in Parliament on the amendments could commence as early as 23 June.