Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Child protection: Fixing an unfixable system

  • 14 July 2022
Once again, there are calls for a Royal Commission into a child protection system that is ‘broken’ says Anne Hollonds, National Children’s Commissioner. An ABC investigation highlights overwhelming case numbers, high staff turnover and dysfunctional ‘out of home’ care. And Liana Buchanan, Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People, says our state system ‘isn't fit for purpose’.

If it’s not child protection, it’s the youth justice and the youth homelessness systems that are in tatters. Isn’t it time that we acknowledged that the State can never be a ‘good parent’ as envisaged by the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 and focus on what really needs to change?  

We had a Royal Commission into ‘Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse’, yet abuse goes on. And a Parliamentary Inquiry into Youth Justice Centres, and still new and bigger centres are being built. And we had the ‘Bringing them Home Report’, but children from indigenous families are still removed at increasing rates. No doubt the system can mitigate harm to children, and in lots of cases carers give hope and support to many kids. But haven’t history and numerous commissions shown that giving children the care they deserve is beyond what the State can do? And terrible to think that it’s been this way since the first children’s homes were established in Victoria in the 1850s.

So, is there nothing Government can do to turn around the ever-increasing numbers of children requiring intervention by the child protection, youth homelessness and justice systems?

Government can start with policies that support families, in all their diversity, and begin to prioritize the needs of children above all else. And given all the evidence tells us that fathers matter to children, isn’t it essential to get fatherhood right? And isn’t this particularly so, as the research shows that engaged and positive fathering makes all the difference in protecting children against the impact of family violence, early school leaving, substance abuse, youth homelessness, and getting into trouble with the law?

So, what kind of father-focussed policies could transform the prospects of children and reverse the escalating numbers of children needing state intervention?

'We need a national approach that puts the interests of children first and a key part of this must be ‘whole of government’ policies that reinforce fathers’ responsibility for their families and supports them in caring for their children.'

We could begin by building upon the positive experience of many dads who