Inquiry into the Child Protection System

The Inquiry into the Child Protection System has been established by the Northern Territory Government to conduct a broad-ranging public inquiry under the Inquiries Act.

Written and oral submissions were invited covering any aspect of the child protection system in the Northern Territory.

The Inquiry was co-chaired by Professor Muriel Bamblett AM, Dr Rob Roseby and Dr Howard Bath, with the support of a specialist Secretariat. An expert Reference Group was established to provide specialist advice.

Community forums to explain the process were held on 11-18 February 2010 in Nhulunbuy, Palmerston, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and Darwin to talk about how the Inquiry will operate and provide an opportunity for the public to raise issues.

Formal hearings were held in the same locations from 18-26 March 2010.  A number of further hearings were also scheduled into April, May and June.

The Board visited a number of Aboriginal communities around the Territory and heard directly from community members.

The Board drew on the recommendations of other recent Inquiries and Coronial hearings; looked at interstate and overseas child protection models; conducted its own research; and sought additional information as required to inform the Inquiry.

The Board of Inquiry has completed its work and the Report was handed to the Chief Minister on 18 October 2010.

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The Inquiry into the Child Protection System in the Northern Territory was announced on 11 November 2009 and the Board of Inquiry was appointed on 9 December 2009.

In late 2009, the Northern Territory Chief Minister and Minister for Children and Families and Child Protection commissioned a Board of Inquiry to conduct a broad-ranging public inquiry under the Inquiries Act into the Northern Territory’s child protection system.

The purpose of the Inquiry was to review the child protection system and to make recommendations to strengthen and improve the system to enable it to meet the needs of the Northern Territory’s children.

Specifically, the Inquiry was to report and make recommendations on:

  • The functioning of the current child protection system including the roles and responsibilities of Northern Territory Families and Children (NTFC) and other service providers involved in child protection.
  • Specific approaches to address the needs of Territory children in the child protection system, including the delivery of child protection services in regional and remote areas as part of the development of the Working Future initiative.
  • Support systems and operational procedures for all workers engaged in child protection, in particular staff retention and training.
  • Quality, sustainability and strategic directions of out-of-home care programs including support systems for foster parents, carers and families.
  • The interaction between government departments and agencies involved in child protection, care and safety and non-government organisations and other groups involved in the protection, care and safety of children.

The Inquiry was to consider and, where appropriate, incorporate:

  • Findings and recommendations arising from recent coronials and other recent investigations, reviews and inquiries into the functioning of the child protection system.
  • Child protection issues and developments at the local, national and international level and their implications for the Northern Territory.

The Inquiry was encouraged to draw on the advice and expertise of existing Northern Territory Government advisory councils, as well as other subject matter experts within the broader community.

The Inquiry’s consultation processes were to be conducted publicly, unless people or organisations contributing to the Inquiry requested that their contribution remain confidential.

The scope of this Inquiry covers the breadth of Child Protection issues.  This includes the roles and responsibilities of a number of statutory government and non-government agencies in addition to those of Northern Territory Families and Children (NTFC). This being the case, the Board’s approach involves gathering information from multiple sources using a range of methodologies.  The key elements of this approach are as follows:

  1. Public forums – These forums held throughout the Northern Territory were designed to provide members of the public with information about the Inquiry and to provide an opportunity for attendees to raise issues that they feel should be explored by the Board.
  2. Written and oral submissions – Submissions were invited from organisations and individuals with an interest in the child protection system and the wellbeing of children. (Further details on making submissions can be found on the “Making Submissions” page.)
  3. The Inquiry Board invited a number of organisations and individuals to contribute to the Inquiry.  In some cases, the Board may issue a summons to individuals who are in a position to provide the Board with specific information.  In some circumstances, individuals may feel more comfortable presenting to the Board if they have been summonsed to do so.  This can be discussed with the Board’s Executive Officer on (08) 8999 6269 or free call 1800 770 543.
  4. Reference group – The Board has established an expert reference group made up of academics, researchers and practitioners from across Australia and the Northern Territory.  This reference group will be providing specific feedback to the Board on methodologies, areas of focus, research and recommendations (see Reference Group page).
  5. The Board’s own policy and research capacity – The Board’s Secretariat includes a number of specialist policy and research staff with capacity to co-ordinate the provision of policy advice and research.  In addition, the Secretariat includes staff members with investigative skills.
  6. The Board will be informed by recent reviews and recommendations of inquiries into child protection systems in other states.
  7. The Board has requested briefings and information from a number of other government and non-government agencies on practice and policy issues it is exploring.
  8. In order to further inform itself about issues, the Board visited all urban centres and a number of remote communities throughout the course of the Inquiry and consulted with community representatives.  Remote communities, in particular, were invited to request a visit by the Board to their community.
  9. The conducting of case reviews and file audits is an option that the Board is considering.

A publishable submission is one that has not been requested by the contributor to be treated as confidential, does not breach relevant legislative provisions in relation to the publication of information  that may identify children within section 301 of the Care and Protection of Childen Act (or their families) or otherwise contravene that Act, and does not contain specific allegations, complaints or defamatory comments  in relation to individuals or organisations.

Where any submission has not been requested by the contributor to be treated as confidential but contains information which is not publishable, the Inquiry will endeavour to place the publishable text on the website, with the information which is not publishable being 'blanked out'.


Last updated: 25 June 2021

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