We have heard countless stories where the system has failed children – despite increasing budgets. The Australian Law Reform Commission has outlined their recommendations to Family Law system (here), but our focus will be to address the fundamental issues of solving the criminality and the syndicate-style functioning of the protection departments in concert with the courts. This is further exacerbated by out-dated and dangerous thinking from certain specialists and so-called experts within the sector.
The ministers and executives also divorce themselves from public and specifically from the children they are charged to protect. Desperate pleas to assist child victims are ignored by all sectors in government. In addition, the breaking up of families has become a profitable “business”, where children have become “units,” and their voices not heard.
Further to this, all those operating in the sector have felt immunity to transparency as for decades Section 121 of the Family Law Act has allowed corruption and criminality to flourish. This cannot be fixed by tweaks to the system.
Apart from submissions and consultation with the advocates, our policies will focus on:
1. CHILD ABUSE BY AUTHORITIES
Regulations need to reflect that removing a child unwarrantedly from a protective parent – especially if it is against the child’s wishes -- is a form of CHILD ABUSE by authorities. Based on the latest scientific research (and common sense), codes of practice and laws need to be reformed to reflect the degrees of malfeasance and criminality in unwarrantedly removing children. This is in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as signed by the Australian Government in 1990, where Article 9 says “a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will…”
2. INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION UNIT
A special multi-disciplined investigative team to be set up to review complaints of inaction and wrongdoing by the police, the protection department/s, the Ombudsman, and the judiciary. This special unit to to discern patterns of sexual abuse and child trafficking, and patterns of malfeasance by authorities in the sector. This publicly vetted team to not be connected to any present department or agency -- and to report directly to an independent body set up by the Premier, or Prime Minister etc. Those persons that have a pattern of disregarding and suppressing abuse claims from children, or protecting offenders must be held accountable under the law.
Section 121(Family Law) was intended to protect the privacy of children, but is being used to protect perpetrators, poor decisions, and to conceal criminality. The courts should take into account that it is a crime to conceal a crime -- and alter section 121 accordingly. More transparency in the sector is required. Media should be encouraged to report on the sector.
4. SCIENCE, EXPERTS AND RE-EDUCATION
Police and DCP investigation methods with regard to child sexual abuse to be reviewed with re-training programs for investigators and staff. Psychiatrists, psychologists and report writers that have recommended removing children from protective parents (in abuse cases) on an ongoing or regular basis should be investigated. Patterns facilitating unwarranted removals need to be accounted for, and persons not acting in the "best interests" of children should be barred from the sector. Those experts using “emotional abuse” to remove children without basis should be barred from the sector.
5. FAMILY COURTS
The entire Family and Youth Court system, the fees charged, and how it operates should be under investigation (some suggest a Royal Commission). Abuse and violence cases should be addressed in a criminal court. Children lawyers must first become accountable and must act for their clients. Those children's lawyers and judicial officers found to have not acted in the "best interests" of children on an ongoing basis should be barred from the sector. The courts must base their rulings on evidence -- not on hearsay.
6. CHILD REMOVAL
Many protection departments are promoting foster care systems, rather than assisting families -- assisting fathers, mothers and their children. Child removal should only be considered as a VERY LAST RESORT, and more money should be injected into helping families and assisting separated parents – and not breaking up families, and removing children. Guardianship statistics should decline, not increase.
It's common sense, and it needs to change.
5E (1) 14—Criminal neglect
(1) A person (the defendant) is guilty of the offence of criminal neglect if— (a) a child… suffers harm as a result of an act; and (b) the defendant had, at the time of the act, a duty of care to the victim; (c) the defendant was, or ought to have been, aware that there was an appreciable risk that harm would be caused to the victim by the act;
251—Abuse of public office
(1) A public officer who improperly— (a) exercises power or influence that the public officer has by virtue of his or her public office; or (b) refuses or fails to discharge or perform an official duty or function...
South Australia Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935
243—Fabricating, altering or concealing evidence
A person who— (a) fabricates evidence or alters, conceals or destroys anything that may be required in evidence at judicial proceedings; or (b) uses any evidence or thing knowing it to have been fabricated or altered, with the intention of— (c) influencing a decision by a person whether or not to institute judicial proceedings; or (d) influencing the outcome of judicial proceedings