Sunday, January 15, 2017 2:16pm
Law Society President, Tony Rossi summarises some of the broader legal themes of importance to the profession in 2017.
In response to the unified protest against the SA Government’s child protections reforms, Minister for Child Protection Reform John Rau has, in various media outlets, dismissed concerns raised by Law Society, Australian Medical Association and SACOSS, and defended the Children and Young People (Safety) Bill in giving the Department a choice as to whether to act when a child has been identified as at risk.
These comments have only served to deepen our concerns that the reforms will do little to fix the broken child protection system. Instead it appears the Government wants to rely on the Department and its new, untested Chief Executive in this role to follow policies and procedures without a legislative instrument that will mandate the Department to act on notifications of children at risk.
This approach has failed dismally in the past and no doubt was an important factor in the Nyland Royal Commission recommending that there not be a discretion.
We need legislation with the requisite force to compel the Department to follow up any notifications that gives the Department reason to believe a child is at risk.
Why would you introduce legislation that suggests it is not necessary to do something if you are aware that a child might be at risk?
The Law Society, AMA, SACOSS, Child & Family Welfare Association of SA, Youth Affairs Council of SA, and Council for Care of Children have all expressed serious concerns that the proposed legislation does not properly adopt the Nyland recommendations.
These stakeholders have expressed frustration that the Government has refused to have regard to our concerns. Contrary to his suggestion, these concerns are not “uninformed” and nor are they “nonsense”. The Bill provides no accountability, either by way of civil or other penalty when officers of the Department fail in their duty, unless they commit a criminal offence.
We believe that child and family lawyers, doctors, and child welfare agencies have both experience and expertise in matters of child protection and welfare. We are asking that the Minister makes a genuine effort to consult with us and heed our concerns.
TONY ROSSI, President, Law Society of SA.