Court proceedings to protect society’s most vulnerable children will be dealt with in a new pilot that is dedicated to support them and their families, with a focus on newborns and infants.
It is the Children’s Court’s responsibility to decide whether a child is in need of protection and care, and to make decisions based on the best interests of that child.
Court figures show the number of protection and care applications lodged in the Perth Children’s Court has increased by 54 per cent over 10 years from 691 in 2010-11 to 1,064 in 2019-20.
Similarly, the Department of Communities has seen a 61 per cent increase in the number of children, including Aboriginal children, entering care over the past nine years from 3,334 children in 2010 to 5,379 children in 2019. Aboriginal children have now overtaken non-Aboriginal children as more likely to be taken into care yet Aboriginal people comprise only 2.2 per cent of WA’s population.
This represents a significant increase in the number of young people needing court intervention to remove them from potentially dangerous living arrangements and place them in a more suitable, safer home.
The pilot will involve a separate list of cases in the Perth Children’s Court, focusing on families in need. It aims to address the issues that cause families to come before the court in a holistic, therapeutic and culturally informed manner.
By establishing the pilot at the Perth Children’s Court, the children, their families, government departments, representatives from the Aboriginal community and community-based agencies will be able to attend the court at the same time.
All parties can be heard, and appropriate support put in place for the child and their family, in the hope that where possible, and in the child’s best interests, they can eventually go back home.
The Perth Children’s Court in partnership with key stakeholders, commenced the pilot on
July 10, 2020. There are currently 16 families involved.
As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:
“This new therapeutic court allows all involved, under the direction of the presiding Magistrate, to participate in a hearing where everyone is focused on what is best for the child.
“It is the unfortunate fact that the rates of Aboriginal children in care are increasing, both overall and as a proportion of the total number of children in care. Addressing this issue is a crucial part of this pilot.
“I would like to thank all those involved in setting up the court, including the judiciary, the Department of Justice, and key external organisations which are currently providing valuable resource support to the pilot.”
As stated by Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk:
“The Children’s Court presides over very sensitive issues involving child safety, and often makes decisions about whether children come into care.
“These cases can be a stressful and confusing time for parents, meaning the opportunity to link families in with services is often lost.
“Experience in various jurisdictions tells us that the court process presents an opportunity to offer greater support, so these new arrangements may well help some families improve their living situation to the point where their children can again live safely under their own roof.”
Child Protection Minister’s office – 6552 6600