media release

New legislation signals biggest change to South Australia’s child protection system in 25 years

Supporting safe and nurturing environments, strengthening the voice of the child and ensuring carers are a central part of decision-making, are among key features of new child safety legislation passed in Parliament today.

The Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017, which comes into effect on 22 October 2018, provides an opportunity for sector-wide change to improve outcomes for South Australian children and young people.

Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson said the new laws were underpinned by a number of core values, including a focus on permanence and stability for children in care and supporting children to have strong connections to family, community and culture.

“The new legislation passed today puts children at the centre of everything we do and gives them a stronger and louder voice in decision-making that impacts them,” said Minister Sanderson.

“Carers will also receive greater recognition for the vitally important role they play in the health, wellbeing and safety of some of our most vulnerable children.

“The new laws are designed to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children, families and culture, by recognising culture as a protective factor and ensuring the services we provide are culturally responsive.”

Highlights of the new legislation include:

• Voice of the child: Giving children the right to be heard in court and talk privately with the judge, as well as being involved in key decisions that impact them.

• Carers: Giving more power to, and greater acknowledgement of, carers and the critical role they play in the health, safety and wellbeing of children and young people in their care. Carers can now seek long term-guardianship of a child that has been in their care for more than two years.

• Aboriginal Placement Principle: Wherever possible, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will be placed with a member of their family, a member of their community or with another person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander cultural background.

• Family Group Conferences: Providing an opportunity for families to come together to make decisions that keep their children safe. This is based on the principles of family-led decision-making, early intervention and engagement with families.

• Case planning: It will be mandatory for each child under guardianship to have an individual case plan that sets out tasks to support the child to have a positive care experience and reach their full potential. Young people leaving care will also have a plan to support them to enter adulthood.

• Drug and alcohol assessment: New powers to direct parents and guardians to undergo a drug or alcohol assessment, test or rehabilitation program.

• Referral powers: In addition to a department-led investigatory response, the Act requires service providers to work in partnership to provide families with a response that meets their needs.

“These new provisions support a whole-of-sector response for children, young people and families and will help ensure that families receive meaningful and appropriate responses,” said Minister Sanderson.

“We unfortunately cannot always prevent abuse and neglect and we cannot always predict where abusive behaviour will occur but these new laws will put in place greater powers and protections to make sure the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people in our state is our top priority.”