Queensland Law Society

Media release: Child protection inquiry raises questions for QLS

Date 05 Nov 2012
Contact Natalie Graeff, Manager Corporate Communication
Phone 07 3842 5868
Mobile 0488 433 884
Fax 07 3221 9329
Email n.graeff@qls.com.au

Published today, Queensland Law Society’s submission to the Child Protection Commission of Inquiry raised the issues of children’s legal needs while in care.

President Dr John de Groot said QLS supported the formation of the commission, and welcomed the opportunity to provide input.

“We raised a number of issues we hope the commission will consider to ensure that all children, regardless of age, have the right to be heard in child protection proceedings affecting them.

“Children should also have a record of both legal issues and any referrals made for them to receive appropriate legal advice or information – a ‘legal needs passport’ perhaps, similar to a health passport for a child in care,” Dr de Groot said.

“Our members report that material disclosed by the department or filed in proceedings often contains information suggesting a child in care may need advice in relation to victim of crime compensation, negligence claims (including against the department), and other matters.

“We acknowledge the complexities involved.

“For example, young people may need advice on a matter that occurred years ago, but this is exactly why we need to ensure they have accurate, accessible records.

“Matters can become complicated when there are gaps in legal aid funding for parents and children, particularly when they face court proceedings against the comparatively
well-resourced department.

“This issue is highlighted by circumstances when parents fail the legal aid merit or means test but have mental health issues that make understanding and representing themselves in a proceeding beyond their capacity.

“However on the other side of the courtroom, the department generally has an officer, court coordinator and a lawyer.

“QLS has offered a number of practical solutions to these issues and we look forward to the outcome of the Inquiry.”