WA Reintroduces Children and Community Services Amendment Bill
The Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2021 (WA) ("the Bill") which seeks to amend the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA) ("the Act") was introduced into the Western Australian Legislative Assembly by Minister for Child Protection Simone McGurk ("the Minister") on 2 June 2021.
The Bill is a reintroduction of the Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2019 (WA) ("the previous Bill"). The previous Bill lapsed when Parliament was prorogued on 7 December 2020 prior to the state election in March 2021.
The Bill contains amendments that seek to implement recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse ("the Royal Commission") and the Western Australian Statutory Review of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 ("the Review").
The Royal Commission was discussed in a previous TimeBase article.
The previous Bill had passed the Legislative Assembly on 20 May 2020 and was referred to the Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Legislation (the "Committee") on 25 June 2020.
According to the Bill's explanatory memorandum, the re-introduced Bill contains a number of new amendments. The amendments follow a number of the Committee’s recommendations in its report on the previous Bill tabled in the WA Legislative Council on 10 September 2020.
Clauses 51 to 53 of the Bill proposes the implementation of recommendations 7.3 and 7.4 of the Royal Commission.
Recommendation 7.3 proposed the introduction of additional classes of persons as mandated reporters of child sexual abuse. Recommendation 7.4 suggested that laws concerning mandatory reporting should not exempt persons in religious ministry from being required to report knowledge or suspicions formed, in whole or in part, on the basis of information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.
Child Placement Principle Amendments
The Bill also proposes to implement the Recommendation 12.20, the Child Placement Principle ("the Principle"). As explained on the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care website, this Principle:
"recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the knowledge and experience to make the best decisions concerning their children and recognises the importance of each child staying connected to their family, community, culture and country".
Therefore, the Bill proposes amendments, which seek to improve understanding of the intent and scope of this Principle, within the community and child protection sector.
The Bill also proposes to implement Recommendation 12.22 of the Royal Commission. Under these amendments, the Bill seeks to support care-leavers transitioning towards independent living, through things such as:
- strategies to assist care-leavers who disclose that they were sexually abused while in out-of-home care to access general post-care supports; and
- targeted supports to address the specific needs of sexual abuse survivors, such as help in accessing therapeutic treatment to deal with impacts of abuse, and for these supports to be accessible until at least the age of 25.
Amendments from Statutory Review
The Bill also seeks to implement recommendations of the Review, which was tabled on 28 November 2017.
The Review examined the operation and effectiveness of the Act against the five terms of reference, which were listed in its final report as:
- "changes to support the introduction of consistent high-quality foster carer standards through a single decision-maker for approvals and revocations;
- the principles relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in sections 12 to 14 and the consultation requirements in section 81;
- any changes necessary to support the safety and well being of adults and children subject to family and domestic violence;
- the provisions relating to secure care arrangements for children at high-risk; and
- issues relating to the intersection between child protection proceedings under Part 5 of the Act and proceedings in the Family Court."
The proposed amendments in the Bill which were recommended by the Review include:
- changes to child participation in decision-making processes including recording children's wishes and views in care plans;
- improvements to the delivery of government services to children in the CEO's care, including children who are under a protection order and younger people who qualify for leaving care assistance;
- changes to the Principle provisions in order to prioritise placement arrangements for Aboriginal children in the CEO’s care to those in closer proximity to the child’s community;
- amendments to facilitate and improve the application of the Principle, as well as enhancement of the consultation process required prior to making placement arrangements for an Aboriginal child in the CEO's care;
- changes to the consultation requirements when making placing arrangements for Aboriginal children, under the CEO's care, with Aboriginal families and representative organisation; and
- improvements to the cultural support planning processes for children in the CEO's care.
The Bill is currently at second reading stage in the Legislative Assembly.
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Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2021 (WA) and explanatory materials available from TimeBase's LawOne Service