Community and legal organisations concerned about child protection changes


Media Release - 11 November 2013

Legal, health, women’s, youth and community organisations have written to Minister Goward about proposed changes to child protection laws in NSW. In an open letter to the Minister, these organisations have expressed their concerns that changes to child protection laws may disproportionately impact on vulnerable and disadvantaged families, without giving careful consideration to the best interests of the child.

‘The proposed changes take child protection public policy in a direction that is contrary to international best practice. Evidence demonstrates far-reaching benefits of early intervention to support parents to care for their children’, said Anna Cody, Chair, Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW). ‘To increase the focus on adoption as a child protection strategy suggests we have not learnt from the past and are set to repeat mistakes that will necessitate another apology in the future’.

‘Except in extreme cases, early intervention services must be available to parents, before children are removed,’ said Janet Loughman, Principal Solicitor, Women’s Legal Services NSW. ‘We urge the government to release their draft laws for public consultation and to consider any concerns raised to avoid.any unintended consequences’.

‘Victims of domestic and family violence must not lose their children because the State fails to protect and support them’, says Ms Loughman.

Dr Margaret Spencer, Intellectual Disability Rights Service said, ‘We are seriously concerned that the timeframes for family restoration and early adoption will be prejudicial to the children of parents with intellectual disabilities. Given the overrepresentation of children known to Community Services whose parents have an intellectual disability, it is important that these changes consider the needs of these families and do not further discriminate against them’.

Rachael Martin, Principal Solicitor, Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre said, ‘We do not want to see the government having to make another apology to children who have been removed from their parents. Aboriginal children must be identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and not placed up for adoption.’

The organisations call on the Minister to support:

  • Greater investment in early intervention tailored for high needs groups

  • Decisions made on a case-by-case basis

  • Help victims of domestic and family violence to be protective parents

  • Free legal representation for parents during Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

  • Informed consent required before adoption

  • Ensuring Aboriginal children are identified

  • Transparent and adequate consultations

More information and a copy of the open letter available here.