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Calls for independence in child protection

The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare told a child protection inquiry on Tuesday that oversight of the child protection system needs to be independent of the Department of Human Services to ensure accountability.

There also needs to be an independent means of reviewing decisions by the department, the organisation’s chief executive Dr Lynette Buoy told the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry in Melbourne.

“At the moment, the department is the regulator and funder of child protection, state care, and child and family services, as well as the legal guardian of children and young people in the system,” Buoy said.

“Guardianship and oversight of the system need to be independent of the department to ensure better transparency, accountability and public confidence in our care for at-risk children, young people and families.”

She said children and families in the system, as well as the organisations which assist them, need to have a bigger say in department decisions.

“Providing a right to speak up in an independent forum about problems at the individual, family and service level is the best way to get honest and challenging views about what’s happening,” she said.

The inquiry also heard from University of Queensland researcher Jatinder Kaur about the need for a multicultural child protection strategy, to provide child protection workers with more cultural awareness to meet the needs of culturally diverse families.

The inquiry, launched in January, is investigating systemic problems in the state’s child protection system.

The panel, chaired by former Supreme Court judge Philip Cummins, is scheduled to report its recommendations to improve the system to government in November.

Justice Cummins was the judge in the trial of the murderer of Daniel Valerio which was a catalyst for the introduction of mandatory reporting of child abuse in Victoria.

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