Legislation Misses Mark to Effectively Protect Children

Giving evidence to the Senate Committee on the Social Security and Indigenous child protection legislation, ACOSS said that the proposals have too many unanswered questions and do not focus on proven and effective interventions to protect children and families.

ACOSS Executive Director Andrew Johnson said, “Child neglect is a serious issue and we must not waste the resources, opportunity and good will on untested interventions. There is no evidence to support the premise of the proposed legislation that restricting finances, removing the right to appeal and the removal of land ownership enables people to tackle drug and alcohol problems, or helps increase school attendance or ultimately protect children and their families.”

“‘Quarantining’ of payments is not a silver-bullet strategy that has been somehow overlooked. Families in crisis need support and services to enable them to deal with their problems, not punitive approaches that risk stigmatising them,” said Lin Hatfield Dodds, ACOSS President.

ACOSS knows that the quarantining of welfare payments to some parents in the rest of Australia will not support them to address the underlying causes of the failure of children to attend school. These families face human and social problems, and blunt financial measures will not assist people to deal with these problems.

In the Hearing, it appears that large amounts of money will go to bureaucrats rather than proven and effective programs to protect children and that the Minister would have overwhelming powers over the family budgets of disadvantaged Australians.

The Combined Aboriginal Organisations of the Northern Territory have analysed the proven and effective programs that protect children and provide the longer term tools to support Indigenous families and communities. These programs should be better supported and rolled out across communities in the NT.

Effective and proven programs do not involve the removal of the affected communities’ ability to engage with decision makers, the removal of permits and land ownership or the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act.