Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Rudd Government leads on information sharing to protect children

A report released today makes recommendations on how to improve information sharing between the Australian Government and State and Territory child protection agencies, to better protect children.

The Australian Government commissioned the report by the Allen Consulting Group, on how the Australian Government can better share child protection information with States and Territories.

It recommends closer partnerships between Commonwealth and State and Territory authorities, including Centrelink, to enable better monitoring of at-risk families when they move within and across States and Territories.

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 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.

These new arrangements will be developed by the end of this year for operation from 2009.

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 nearly 24,732 in 1999-2000 to 58,563 in 2006-2007.

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

Improved information sharing between the Australian Government and child protection agencies will be a key part of the Government’s National Child Protection Framework.

Other measures under trial or consideration include giving State child protection authorities the power to recommend to Centrelink that income support and family payments are quarantined so they are used for the benefit of children as well as a stronger focus on prevention.

The report also recommends investigating the potential for information sharing with other Commonwealth agencies.

Any changes to Government procedures to facilitate greater information sharing on children at risk will be subject to a privacy impact assessment.

In October, COAG agreed to the need for improved information sharing between Australian and State and Territory agencies to help locate children at serious risk of abuse or neglect when their whereabouts are unknown.

The Government will respond further to the report’s recommendations in the context of the National Child Protection Framework.

The full report Australia’s children: safe and well: a national framework for protecting Australia’s children is available