On behalf of the Child Death and Serious Injury Review Committee, I am pleased to present to Parliament, the Committee’s 15th annual report. This report is provided under Part 4 of the Children and Young People (Oversight and Advocacy Bodies) Act 2016.
Nationally, and internationally, we have read expressions of concern about the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable children and young people1. In April, I wrote to the Ministers for Child Protection, Education, Health, and Human Services about this issue. Several cases of serious injury and death reviewed by the Committee, provided examples of the significant physical and emotional consequences that isolation from school and community can have on vulnerable children and young people. I shared the Committee’s conclusion from these reviews that collaborative, active and assertive steps need to be taken by government agencies to prevent such tragedies.
I note that my colleagues – the Guardian for Children and Young People and the Commissioner for Children and Young People – have also raised issues about the impact that COVID-19 can have on children and young people2.
With respect to the needs of the State’s most vulnerable children and young people, a milestone was achieved with the publication of the inaugural report of the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, and I congratulate Commissioner Lawrie on her work. The Committee is hopeful that in the coming year our government will take steps to establish the legislation and resources necessary to carry the work of the Commissioner into the future.
I share the Commissioner’s concerns for the welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. A reading of this year’s annual report confirms that, year after year, the death rate of these children and young people remains several times higher than those of their non-Aboriginal counterparts. This is an outcome that must be unacceptable to us all and requires urgent redress.
The Committee’s report has changed this year as its access to certain information was compromised for several months while all agencies adjusted to the threat of COVID-19. Accordingly, the Committee has not been able to update its statistics regarding the causes of child deaths for 2019. This information will be released through a series of blog posts starting in the new year, allowing us to report up-to-date information in more interactive and dynamic ways.
The Committee continues to pursue effective ways to influence service systems and share the knowledge and understanding gained from its data analyses and review of child deaths. It is poised to begin working in ways that will provide a broader platform for using the information and expertise it has to influence system change, and to engage with other stakeholders.
The Committee extends its sympathy to all those families, friends and the communities who have lost a child. Our understanding of the heartache this loss causes is one of the factors that drives our work and I trust that this report will assist the efforts of those who work to keep children and young people safe.Meredith Dickson
Child Death and Serious Injury Committee