The Minister for Child Protection, the Hon Simone McGurk MLA, introduced the Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2021 in the Legislative Assembly of the Western Australian Parliament on 2 June 2021.
The Bill implements recommendations of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) and the 2017 Statutory Review of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act). It also includes additional amendments recommended by the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Legislation (the Committee), which inquired into the policy of the former Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2019 before it lapsed when Parliament was prorogued on 7 December 2020. The Committee’s report was tabled in Parliament on 10 September 2020.
Changes proposed to the the Act will strengthen the Act to better protect WA’s children from harm as a result of abuse. They are also intended to improve outcomes for children who are in the care of the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities, with a particular focus on strengthening connection to family, culture and Country for Aboriginal children in care.
In line with Royal Commission recommendations 7.3 and 7.4, the Bill includes changes that will see reporting of child sexual abuse made mandatory for early childhood workers, ministers of religion, out of home care workers, registered psychologists, school counsellors and youth justice workers. Assessors appointed under section 125A of the Act and officers of the Department of Communities will also become mandatory reporters.