Towards the end of 2012, the NSW government released a Discussion Paper for comment entitled Child Protection: Legislative Reform, Legislative Proposals.
The paper includes 29 proposals. It canvasses ideas such as removing the requirement to establish the need for care and protection before making a (newly proposed) parent capacity order. It suggests legislating a time frame (within six months for children less than two years and within twelve months for children older than two years) in which to achieve restoration of children to their parents before permanency planning, including adoption, is pursued. The paper also proposes amending the Adoption Act to provide additional grounds for dispensing with parental consent, including where a parent cannot be located. Women’s Legal Services NSW believes that such a proposal will have a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It is concerning that such proposals are being made only a few years after the National Apology to the Stolen Generations and only months after the NSW Government’s Apology for Forced Adoption Practices.
Women’s Legal Services NSW believes a more appropriate response to child protection includes better resourcing and accessibility of early intervention and rehabilitation programs for parents and responses to domestic and family violence which are empowering for victims rather than being punitive.
The discussion paper can be downloaded from http://haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/child-protection-reforms
Submissions are due 8 March 2013.
LIZ SNELL is Law Reform and Policy Co-ordinator at Women’s Legal Services NSW.