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Child Protection Minister refuses to answer basic questions about 10-year-old child’s care after suicide death

Hannah Cross
The Nightly
3 Min Read
A 10-year-old Indigenous boy has taken his own life while in the care of a State government.
A 10-year-old Indigenous boy has taken his own life while in the care of a State government. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

A state government is refusing to answer even the most basic questions relating to the events leading up to the suicide death of a 10-year-old Indigenous boy in their care.

The Nightly’s exclusive revelations about the child’s death rocked the nation, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese saying he was “shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news of a young person taking their own life”.

Federal Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said the tragedy “demands deep reflection,” and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said it points to the “enormous challenges going forward in relation to closing the gap”.

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WA Premier Roger Cook said the boy’s death was “disturbing”, “tragic” and that “now we are left with the task of getting answers”.

Yet several basic questions from The Nightly to Child Protection Minister Sabine Winton and the department who had care of the 10-year-old yesterday went unanswered.

Ms Winton’s office and the Department of Communities refused to answer the following:

- When did he come into the care of Communities?

- How many caseworkers did he have?

- How often was his case reviewed versus how often policy mandates a review?

16 Days in WA breakfast event at Crown. Pictured - Sabine Winton
Yet several basic questions from The West Australian to Child Protection Minister Sabine Winton and the department who had care of the 10-year-old yesterday went unanswered. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

- Had there been any concern for his welfare before his death?

- Was he accessing any mental health services before his death?

Ms Winton said: “All children supported in family or foster care arrangements have access to appropriate medical and psychological supports where required”.

A department spokesperson said, “All children supported in family or foster care arrangements have access to appropriate medical and psychological support.”

“In keeping with its legal and ethical obligations, Communities does not comment on individual cases, particularly where there is potential or evident risk of identifying one or more children in care,” the department said.

Aboriginal Legal Service WA chief executive Wayne Nannup said the government “must act now” to prevent further deaths in care.

“We can’t continue to lose our young people,” Mr Nannup said.

“Government needs to step up and realise that the current approach isn’t working and that Aboriginal families, communities and organisations need to be resourced, empowered and supported to drive the required change.”

Aboriginal Legal Service WA chief executive Wayne Nannup said the government “must act now” to prevent further deaths in care.
Aboriginal Legal Service WA chief executive Wayne Nannup said the government “must act now” to prevent further deaths in care. Credit: Giovanni Torre

National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds called for child safety to be made a national priority to better coordinate services, warning that the most vulnerable kids are falling through the cracks between State and Federal responsibilities.

“I think in Australia, we do really poorly when it comes to our most vulnerable children,” she said.

“We make it really hard for people to get the help they need. That’s the truth of it.

“Some states struggle more than others. It doesn’t make sense to me why even the child protection acts in each state are so incredibly different.”

WA Liberal Leader Libby Mettam has vowed to separate child protection from the “mega department” that is Communities if elected premier.

But Labor Minister John Carey said that idea was just “tinkering” with bureaucracy.

WA Liberal Leader Libby Mettam has vowed to separate child protection from the “mega department” that is Communities if elected premier.
WA Liberal Leader Libby Mettam has vowed to separate child protection from the “mega department” that is Communities if elected premier. Credit: Halim Mellick/The West Australian
But Labor Minister John Carey said that idea was just “tinkering” with bureaucracy.
But Labor Minister John Carey said that idea was just “tinkering” with bureaucracy. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

“We know, and Western Australians know, that the challenges within the Child Protection portfolio are very complex and that often you are dealing with deep intergenerational trauma,” he said.

“This idea put by the Liberals, which is some tinkering around the edges of bureaucracy, I just think is not focused on real outcomes.”

Ms Mettam responded by saying Mr Carey “clearly ... does not understand what’s going on on the ground”.

“The creation of a mega department under the McGowan, and now, Cook Labor Government has been an unmitigated disaster,” she said.

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For culturally safe First Nations crisis support, call 13YARN on 13 92 76

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