Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Better information sharing to improve child protection

The Australian Government has appointed a specialist in child protection to investigate ways to improve information sharing within and between jurisdictions as part of its National Child Protection Framework.

Ms Mary Ann O’Loughlin, who has extensive experience in the reform of child protection systems, will work with the states and territories to identify existing barriers to information sharing and ways these barriers can be overcome. This will include determining how the Commonwealth can best help states and territories and the non-government sector in sharing information.

As part of her work, she will examine the early intervention capacity of agencies such as Centrelink, and how they can share information with the states and territories to better protect children at risk.

The Government is already using Centrelink’s resources and its existing contact with vulnerable families to trial income management – in partnership with local child protection authorities. Income management is an important measure to make sure that welfare income is spent in the interests of children.

The Council of Australian Governments last month requested Disability Services Ministers to examine how information about families and children at risk could be more effectively shared across the boundaries of states and the Commonwealth.

Every year there are around 60,000 substantiated cases of children who are either abused or neglected and the rates of abuse have doubled in the past decade. Abused or neglected children carry the physical and emotional scars with them all their lives, often with devastating effects.

The Government is committed to providing the national leadership essential to better protect children through the implementation of the National Child Protection Framework.

In May, the Government released a discussion paper – Australia’s children: safe and well. So far almost 200 submissions have been received – from state and territory governments and non-government organisations to health and medical groups and foster carers. There have also been consultations with young people who have been in foster care.

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

Ms O’Loughlin will complete her work in the next few months. Her background in child protection includes working with governments to reform services. She is also a member of the Disability Investment Group and was recently appointed to the Commonwealth Government’s National Health and Hospital Reform Commission.