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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12148

Child Protection

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your correspondence of 15 October 2018 regarding Petition EN0684, presented to the Standing Committee on Petitions, raising concerns about the New South Wales child protection system and requesting the creation of a national children's court.

The petition has requested that the House of Representatives undertake an inquiry into the Children's Court of New South Wales and children's courts located in other Australian states. Further, the petition has requested that a national children's court be created as part of the federal court system. The petitioners have also raised a number of concerns about the New South Wales child protection system, including the New South Wales Children's Court.

The states and territories have policy and statutory responsibility for, and deliver services that support, the receiving of reports, investigations and responses to child protection matters. It would therefore not be possible to create a national children's court as part of the federal court system.

The New South Wales Minister for Family and Community Services, the Hon Pru Goward MP, is the appropriate person to contact with concerns about the New South Wales Department of Community Services and their handling of complaints:

The Hon Pru Goward MP

Minister for Family and Community Services 52 Martin Place

SYDNEY NSW 2000

The New South Wales Children's Court falls within the responsibility of the Attorney General for New South Wales, the Hon Mark Speakman SC MP. If the petitioners have not already done so, they may wish to write to the Attorney General at the following address:

The Hon Mark Speakinan SC MP

Department of Justice GPO Box 5341

SYDNEY NSW 2001

Further details about contacting the Attorney General can be found at the following website:

www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/members.

The Australian Government is responsible for the family law system, which helps people resolve the legal aspects of family relationship issues, including parenting arrangements for the care of children in the event of family relationship breakdown. The Australian Government is committed to improving the intersection between the federal family law and state and territory child protection systems to ensure that these systems provide effective outcomes for vulnerable families. To this end, the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018 (the Act), which commenced on 1 September 2018, allows state and territory children's courts to be prescribed to have family law parenting jurisdiction.

This Act will provide state and territory judicial officers with additional tools to resolve matters involving the care arrangements for a child more holistically. For example, in appropriate cases, where a child protection matter is already before a children's court, the court will be able to make a family law parenting order by consent for a protective carer, such as a grandparent, so as to provide greater certainty about ongoing care arrangements for a child. This will reduce the need for parties to initiate separate parenting proceedings in a federal family law court.

The Act implements recommendations of the Family Law Council's 2015 and 2016 reports on Families with Complex Needs and the Intersection of the Family Law and Child Protection Systems, and of other expert reports. My Department is working with the states and territories to support successful implementation of the Act.

I also note the petitioners request that legal aid grant assistance is extended for negligence if a person's child is taken unlawfully. The Australian Government funds a range of legal assistance services, such as legal aid commissions, to provide legal help to vulnerable and disadvantaged people. The priorities for Commonwealth legal assistance funding include, but are not limited to, family law, family violence matters and children. As legal aid commissions are independent statutory bodies established under state and territory legislation, commissions determine eligibility for their legal services and the extent of assistance they provide in individual cases. Applications for grants of legal aid are means and merits tested against guidelines determined by each legal aid commission.

Thank you for bringing matters to my attention. I trust this information is of assistance.

Yours sincerely

from the Attorney-General, the Hon Christian Porter MP (Petition No. EN0684)