Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Sharing information to protect Australian children

Joint Media Release with:

  • Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Human Services

Medicare Australia can now provide information to state and territory child protection agencies to help protect and support children at risk of abuse or neglect.

The move to include Medicare in the information sharing process follows the protocol adopted by Centrelink in January this year.

The information sharing protocol formalises the process for passing on client details to child protection agencies, where a child is at serious risk of harm or in the interests of their health or welfare.

With the inclusion of Medicare, important medical information can now be shared.

For example, if a child is placed into the care of a child protection agency their medical and immunisation history and Medicare number can be accessed quickly and efficiently.

This helps foster or other carers best meet the health needs of children in their care.

The new protocol can also assist in investigations of serious medical neglect cases, by allowing child protection authorities to access a child’s history of doctor visits.

It includes clearly establishing what information can be requested and under what circumstances it can be provided. These guidelines are different for each agency according to the governing legislation and the Privacy Act 1988.

Since the information sharing process was introduced, child protection agencies have made almost 2000 requests to Centrelink, most seeking details of a family’s location where a child is at risk.

National Child Protection Week runs from the 6 to 12 September, and this year’s theme is ‘Help bring child abuse out in the open’, acknowledging that child abuse is often hidden behind a wall of fear, ignorance, denial and disinterest.

The best interests of children are a national priority for the Australian Government.

Improved information sharing between government agencies, regardless of the level of government, is a vital tool in the protection of children.

Sharing information across jurisdictions can prevent vulnerable children becoming lost to child protection agencies when families move from one location to another.

Every child has the right to a safe, healthy and happy childhood.

This is what drives the Government’s National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020, which was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in April 2009. Improved information sharing is a key action under the National Framework.

The National Framework is an ambitious, long-term approach supported by all levels of government to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Australian children.

The Australian Government will continue to work with state and territory child protection agencies to identify how the protocol can be expanded to include other appropriate Commonwealth agencies, including the Child Support Agency.