From ABC, 3 Oct. 08
NUMBER OF CHILDREN NEEDING PROTECTION 'HAS TRIPLED'
New research shows state governments have failed to put in place appropriate child protection measures despite a sharp rise in the number of children needing protection from violent and sexual abuse in the last 10 years.
A report from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has found that since 1997, the number of children needing protection - mostly from violent and drug-addicted parents - has more than tripled nationally to more than 300,000.
While this was based on both substantiated and unsubstantiated child-protection notifications, the number of substantiated notifications also increased dramatically - almost doubling from 29,833 to 58,563.
The biggest increase in the number of notifications (substantiated and unsubstantiated) was in New South Wales, where the figure in 1995-96 was 28,930 and the corresponding figure in 2006-07 was 189,928.
The group is using the report to call for the creation of a federal children's commissioner to complement the work of commissioners that already exist in most states and territories.
One of the report author's, James McDougall, says little has been done to prevent children suffering at the hands of abusive and violent parents.
"There's been a hell of a lot of concerns around prosecutions and notifications, but in terms of good public policy development it's become fairly clear to us that what we've missed out on doing is that ensuring children are actually protected in that process," he said.
He says it shows a lack of appropriate early intervention polices, a problem that could be addressed by the creation of a federal commissioner position.
"We now have a commissioner in almost every state and territory and that position is able to draw attention to these areas of deficiencies in terms of public policy," he said.
"That clearly is needed at a national level as well."
The report also calls for more support programs for parents with drug or alcohol problems, as well as mental health assistance for children.