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Inquiry launched into child's bashing -

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Inquiry launched into child's bashing

Samantha Donovan reported this story on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 12:46:00

PETER CAVE: The Victorian Premier John Brumby has admitted that the state's child protection
services failed a two-year-old child who's fighting for her life in hospital.

The Victorian Government has launched an inquiry into the incident, but it will be an internal
review and there's no guarantee that the findings will be made public.

The little girl's father was charged with her bashing and he took his own life yesterday.

Samantha Donovan reports.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The two-year-old girl from Western Victoria is in Melbourne's Royal Children's
Hospital with severe head injuries.

Her father had been charged with assaulting her and was due to appear in court today. But he was
found dead yesterday. Police say that his death is not suspicious.

The Victorian Premier John Brumby has admitted on Fairfax Radio this morning that the little girl
was let down by Child Protection Services.

JOHN BRUMBY: Clearly the system has failed. A child has been assaulted and is seriously ill and a
parent has lost his life so it is a tragic case, it is a terrible case and any case like that
disturbs me, disturbs you, disturbs Victorians.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: John Brumby says that this type of case is becoming more common.

JOHN BRUMBY: We are getting quite an increase in dysfunctional families I guess. To put it another
way with involving very young children so we have, as I said, more than doubled resources. We have
set up the office of the child safety commissioner Bernie Geary. We toughened penalties. There is
more than 1,000 child protection workers and you know, government can't fix every problem and
government can't fix every family and the basic responsibilities here still need to remain with
families.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The Victorian Community Services Minister Lisa Neville has announced that there
will be an inquiry into the case.

She told ABC Local Radio's Jon Faine that it will be conducted internally by a senior member of the
Department of Human Services with some involvement from Victoria's child services commissioner
Bernie Geary.

LISA NEVILLE: The review will be undertaken by a senior practitioner who is involved in practice
and process changes within our, within the department.

JON FAINE: So one of your own departmental staff will review their own colleagues. Is that the sort
of independent review that will get to the core of any problems in your department? Surely an
external independent review might shed some light on it. An internal review could be a cover-up.

LISA NEVILLE: Well, we, I have some changes to the legislation before the Parliament at the moment
Jon which would enable me to refer these cases, like this, to the child safety commissioner to
undertake the review.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: One talkback caller to ABC Local Radio in Melbourne who has worked in the UK's
child protection service said there are common problems in that type of work.

TALKBACK CALLER: I was working in a team that previously a child had died when they failed to
investigate. It builds up like a sort of chronic toxicity in the system and the workers have to
make continual fine judgments all the time - whether to remove, whether not to remove and I don't
think the child protection system addresses well enough the kind of stress for those teams and the
stress for those workers. Now mirror then next to some of the chaos and the stress of the families
and until the system says "we need to address this," then we will have times I think the system
breaks down.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The Victorian Premier John Brumby says attempts have been made to reduce the
backlog of cases facing child protection workers.

JOHN BRUMBY: We have doubled the number of child protection workers but we have had in the last few
years in particular, we have had a big spike in the number of completely dysfunctional families
involving very young children.

We have made some progress but we have got more to do. If there are more issues that come out of
this case and the way it is handled then we need to look at them obviously, as a government but I
would just say on the one hand, government can't fix every single problem and governments, you
know, you take a child from a family as a last resort.

PETER CAVE: Victorian Premier John Brumby ending Samantha Donovan's report.