About Us

Child Protection Panel

We take our role seriously to protect children who are in immigration detention from abuse, neglect or exploitation. We also support the Government of Nauru to do the same in the Regional Processing Centre. We seek to identify opportunities for improvement to processes, practice, policy and cultural norms around its responses to such incidents involving children.

To that end, following consultation with the Minister, the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection established a Child Protection Panel (the Panel) to provide independent advice on issues pertaining to the wellbeing and protection of children in immigration detention and in regional processing centres.

The Panel comprised of:

  • John Lawler AM, APM – previously Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Crime Commission
  • Margaret Allison – previously Director-General of the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Queensland)
  • Dominic Downie – previously a Senior Executive in the Australian Public Service (APS) with significant roles including in the design of the APS leadership capability framework.

Statement from the Child Protection Panel

Overview

In March 2015, as part of its response to the Moss Review (4MB PDF) we appointed an independent Child Protection Panel to provide independent advice on issues pertaining to the well-being and protection of children in immigration detention and in regional processing centres.

We released the Panel’s final report Making Children Safer: the wellbeing and protection of children in immigration detention and regional processing centres (1MB PDF) after carefully considering each of the 17 recommendations.

Panel statement

As a result of the Panel's work, two versions of the report have been produced.

The Panel’s original version of the report contains some detailed case studies, which were included to illustrate the Panel’s observations, and to support their recommendations. These case studies include sensitive personal information, and could potentially lead to the identification of individuals.

For these reasons, and based on Departmental advice, a public version has been created from the original version, which has a number of redactions, principally the detailed case studies.  These redactions have been necessary to protect the privacy of individuals, including those referenced in these case studies.

The Panel does not believe this detracts substantially from the substance of its report.

Our response to recommendations in the Child Protection Panel’s final report

Table 1  - Final Report Recommendations and Responses

Item Recommendation Department’s response Comments

RECOMMENDATION 1
[Section 6]
The Department review its operational framework for community detention to ensure that the:

1a.

current and emerging risks to children and families in the changing community detention environment are fully understood and acted upon

Partially accepted, noting that it is not possible for the Department to be present with families in the community to fully identify all emerging risks.

The Department is developing a risk management framework related to child safeguarding which will support officers and service providers in identifying and mitigating risks where they arise.  When developing policies and procedures regarding child welfare matters for children in Community Detention, the Department will take into account identified risks and require service providers to implement mitigation strategies.  

1b.

services available to detainees are tailored to their needs, including enhanced support and transitional arrangements

Accepted.

 

RECOMMENDATION 2
[Section 6]
The Department work with community detention service providers to strengthen performance around the:

2a.

capability of service provider and subcontractor staff to identify and act upon emerging risks to the safety of children

Accepted.

 

2b.

capability of front-line support staff to respond to critical incidents

Accepted.

 

2c.

rationalisation of reporting arrangements between the Department, service providers and subcontractors

Accepted.

 


RECOMMENDATION 3.
[Section 7]
That the Department review the management of unaccompanied minors (UAMs) in community detention, to ensure that: 

3a.

contractual arrangements for the provision of day-to-day care of unaccompanied minors (UAMs) include expertise in out-of-home care, as well as settlement services

Partially accepted as the Department does not deliver ‘Settlement Services.’

Settlement Services are delivered by the Department of Social Services and are not an entitlement of UAMs in Community Detention.

The Department will review the services provided as a part of our UAM care model in Community Detention and will seek variances to SRSS contracts to specify expertise requirements.

3b.

a ‘transition from care’ scheme is established that extends current levels of support to UAMs beyond their 18th birthday where this is required, especially for the purpose of completing school

Accepted.

Once a minor turns 18, if deemed in their best interests, the Department can extend the support provided under the UAM Programme on a case by case basis.

RECOMMENDATION 4
[Section 8]
That the Department give effect to the Child Safeguarding Framework (the Framework), by:

4a.

finalising the stated policies, procedural instructions, operating procedures and supporting material, that underpin the Framework

Accepted.

 

4b.

ensuring that service provider and subcontractor policies that support child wellbeing and protection are amended to align with the Framework

Accepted in principle.

The Department will work with Service Providers to ensure that their policies and procedures as they relate to the delivery of departmental services align with the Child Safeguarding Framework.

4c.

ensuring that Detention Superintendents and Field Compliance Operations Superintendents have the necessary authority and knowledge to fulfil their accountabilities under the Framework

Accepted.

Noting, the Department does not hold legislative powers relating to child protection.


RECOMMENDATION 5.
[Section 8]
That the Department complete a review of the implementation and effectiveness of the Framework within 18 months of its endorsement, with particular focus on the:

5a.

effective exercise of accountability and control by Detention Superintendents and Field Compliance Operations Superintendents

Accepted.

Noting control is only exercisable in a held detention environment.

5b.

quality assurance and policy roles of the Child Protection and Wellbeing Branch

Accepted.

 

5c.

use of the ‘triple track’ approach to incident response

Accepted.

 

RECOMMENDATION 6.
[Section 8]
That the Department continue to build sound working relations with state and territory authorities on child protection matters, to:

6a.

ensure the reciprocal flow of information about child protection matters

Accepted in principle.

Noting that the Department is not privy to all information held by Child Protection Authorities.

6b.

establish a common understanding of the processes followed by each party so that complex cases can be effectively resolved

Accepted.

Noting that each jurisdiction specifies their own processes.

6c.

seek to brief law enforcement, judicial, and mental health authorities to enhance their understanding of Australian Government immigration detention arrangements

Accepted in principle.

The Department has current relationships with law enforcement authorities who work with DIBP regarding immigration matters. The Department will brief external agencies as required regarding Immigration Detention arrangements.

6d.

seek the leave of the relevant court or tribunal to appear and make submissions relating to a held or community detention issue

Accepted in principle.

The Department seeks leave on a case by case basis on the advice of legal counsel.

RECOMMENDATION 7.
 [Section 8]
That the Department develop an enhanced incident categorisation system, in conjunction with service providers, that accurately identifies the number, nature and seriousness of incidents, including child abuse.  

7.

As above.

Accepted.

The Department is currently reviewing the incident categorisation system and will consult with stakeholders in regard to its usage.

RECOMMENDATION 8.
[Section 8]
That the Department strengthen its capacity to conduct child safeguarding inquiries by:

8a.

ensuring effective leadership and management of inquiries by Detention Superintendents and Field Compliance Operations Superintendents

Accepted.

 

8b.

requiring service providers to deliver accurate and complete incident reporting

Accepted.

Current requirements exist however the Department will consolidate requirements with the development of the new incident categorisation system.

8c.

establishing regular multi-agency forums to coordinate and facilitate the outcomes of child protection investigations

Accepted in
principle.

The Department has regular established forums with service providers to identify, discuss and address systemic issues relating to services provided. The establishment of multi-agency forums will require the agreement and cooperation of law enforcement and child welfare authorities who already have established state based forums. The Department will discuss with each State Authority, noting that the State Authority has statutory responsibility for child protection investigations.

8d.

ensuring that inquiries are not finalised until all available facts are established and effectively responded to

Accepted.

 

8e.

ensuring that any complaint withdrawals are fully documented and transparent.

Accepted.

 

RECOMMENDATION 9.
[Section 8]
That the Department develop, in conjunction with relevant service providers, case management standards for children in immigration detention. Further, the Department should design a complex-case management protocol, in consultation with Detention Superintendents and Field Compliance Operations Superintendents, within the ambit of the Child Safeguarding Framework.  

9.

As above.

Accepted in principle.

The Department has current case management standards and arrangements for status resolution. We will work with other areas in the Department to include child welfare protocols in case management so as not to develop multiple levels of case management that are disparate to the family unit or individual’s status resolution. This includes consideration of child welfare case management being included in the review of Status Resolution Policy and the Detention Capability Review.

RECOMMENDATION 10.
[Section 8]
That the Department ensure that Detention Superintendents and Field Compliance Operations Superintendents, service providers and subcontractors are aware of, and have access to, appropriate professional services that are required in complex child wellbeing and protection cases. 

10.

As above.

Accepted.

The Department requires service providers to provide suitably qualified staff (contractors and sub- contractors) to fulfil their contract requirements.  This includes their access to professional services and training. Additionally, the Department is looking to establish a panel of providers with child protection expertise who can be engaged to advise on specific cases.

RECOMMENDATION 11.
[Section 8]
That the Department: 

11a.

extend its risk-assessment mechanisms to ensure that they specifically address the safety of children in immigration detention, including

i. children under the age of six years and others known to be at high risk of abuse

Accepted.

The Department will ensure all risk assessments for children in Immigration Detention are considered for vulnerabilities related to age and other factors.

11a.

ii. recidivist persons of interest

Accepted.

 

11b.

introduce a risk-assessment process around the movement of children and their families

Accepted.

11c.

extend the National Detention Placement Model to include the needs of, and mitigation of the risks faced by, children and families in immigration detention

Accepted.

 

RECOMMENDATION 12.
[Section 8]
That the Department identify, assess and effectively respond to:

12a.

children who have been the victims of abuse on multiple occasions

Accepted in principle.

The Department will respond within the bounds of our authority and influence.

12b.

persons of interest who have been involved in multiple child abuse incidents

Accepted in principle.

The Department will respond within the bounds of our authority and influence.

RECOMMENDATION 13.
[Section 8]
That the Department continue to implement the findings of the review of internet safeguards conducted by the Department's Detention Assurance Team, including:

13a.

the restriction of data-transfer capability

Accepted in principle.

Without interrupting an individual’s capability to lodge their immigration documentation.

13b.

the capacity to identify users of departmental computers in immigration detention facilities

Accepted in principle.

Staff use is currently identified.  Capacity to identify users who may share passwords will limit capability to identify individuals.

13c.

a regular review of data access records to identify unlawful and inappropriate access

Accepted in principle.

Please see 13a and 13b.

13d.

age-appropriate access to online and other digital media

Accepted.

In held detention facilities and with the guidance of parents.

RECOMMENDATION 14.
[Section 8]
That the Department improve its management of case-related information, including by:

14a.

developing a mechanism to ensure that officers who need this information know where it is and how to access it

Accepted.

 

14b.

integrating the currently fragmented information holdings relating to children and their families in immigration detention

Accepted in principle.

The Department will identify appropriate and relevant systems that should be integrated in regard to these information holdings; and assess capability and timing to implement integration.

RECOMMENDATION 15.
[Section 8]
That the Department:

15a.

ensure that all relevant information on the history and background of the child and the person of interest (POI) is communicated to all relevant stakeholders (including state and territory authorities), when the child or POI is moved within or outside the immigration detention network

Partially accepted.

The Department accepts this recommendation, noting the importance of distinguishing between persons of interest who have had an accusation made against them and persons of interest who have been convicted or equivalent in relation to a child protection incident.

The Department agrees to notify the relevant state or territory child welfare authority when a person of interest moves into community detention.

15b.

seek consent, where necessary, from the detainee concerned to authorise the sharing of information to enhance the services to be provided – or consider if there are other grounds to lawfully disclose the information. 

Accepted in principle.

The Department undertakes to discuss with individuals the benefit of them disclosing matters to local child welfare and law enforcement authorities in order to access specific services.

RECOMMENDATION 16.
[Section 8]
That the Department develop its intelligence capability in the immigration detention network to address child abuse risks, in line with the findings of the Integrated Intelligence Capability Review, so that:

16a.

the incidence of child abuse is reduced

Accepted.

 

16b.

intelligence products are used to inform decision making

Accepted.

 

RECOMMENDATION 17.
[Section 8]
That the Department consider providing a copy of this (CCP Final) report to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, drawing its attention to the enhancements that could be made to Australia’s mandatory reporting arrangements

17.

As above.

Accepted.

Provided.

Our Child Safeguarding Framework

A focus of the independent Child Protection Panel has been the development of the Department's Child Safeguarding Framework. The Framework outlines the principles, policies and procedures for staff and contracted service providers to safeguard children who receive our services.

Child Protection Panel terms of reference

The purpose of this Panel was to ensure a comprehensive and contemporary framework for the Department relating to the protection of children is in place. This was achieved by assessing the adequacy of departmental and service provider policy and practice around the management of incidents of abuse, neglect or exploitation involving children. Based on this assessment, the Panel provided recommendations for ongoing improvement.

In relation to incidents of abuse, neglect or exploitation involving children the Panel was tasked with:

  • critically review responses by the Department and its service providers in onshore detention environments, including community placement, and at regional processing centres, to reported incidents which occurred since 1 January 2008
  • provide independent advice to the Secretary in relation to the effectiveness and correctness of departmental and service provider policy and procedure around the management, response, and reporting of incidents involving children, and
  • make recommendations to strengthen arrangements around the management, response, and reporting of incidents involving children.

Any material obtained by the Panel that might be of assistance in relation to criminal charges or investigation activity was made available to relevant authorities.

The Panel provided an issues paper to the Secretary outlining indicative findings from the targeted reviews in December 2015, before delivering its final report.

More information

For more information about the framework or matters relating to children, email child.protection@border.gov.au