Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Better information sharing to protect children

From 1 January 2009, a new protocol will improve information sharing between the Australian Government and State and Territory child protection agencies, to better protect children.

Improved information sharing will help locate families when there are concerns about a child’s welfare, especially when they move within and across states and territories and their whereabouts are unknown.

We know that one of the obstacles faced by child protection workers is locating families when they move.

By opening communication channels through sharing information already available to Centrelink, child protection agencies will be able to maintain contact with families.

Centrelink will initially implement the protocol, and throughout 2009, it will be considered for use with other relevant Australian Government agencies. It will only be used when it is appropriate and lawful. Any legislation will be subject to a privacy impact assessment.

Centrelink will also be included in the interstate alerts system which is used by child protection agencies in all States, Territories and New Zealand to assist in locating families when there are child protection concerns.

Children are the most vulnerable people in our community and too many are being damaged by child abuse.

The number of substantiated cases of child abuse has risen from around 25,000 in 1999-2000 to nearly 60,000 in 2006-07.

The information sharing protocol builds on measures already introduced by the Australian Government to protect the safety and wellbeing of children.

The Government is trialling income management in the Kimberley and Cannington areas of Western Australia to quarantine welfare so payments are spent in the best interests of children.

The Government is providing national leadership to better protect children through a National Child Protection Framework to be released in the first half on 2009.

The Government is committed to a child-centred approach to family policy so that the best interests of children drive policy development and implementation.