A Bill to reinforce children’s rights and make sure they can participate meaningfully in decisions being made about them inside Queensland’s child protection system has been introduced.

The new law will amend the Child Protection Act 1999 to reinforce children’s rights within the system’s legal framework, strengthen children’s voices in relation to decisions that affect them, and improve the regulation of the care system.

Minister for Children Leanne Linard said:

“During consultations held in regard to this legislation, young people in the child protection system told us they want to be heard and need to be able to participate in decisions made about their lives. I can assure them that we have listened.”

“We have introduced the Child Protection Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021, which will strengthen the Act to ensure children will be genuinely empowered and supported to participate in decisions about their lives and the child protection system,” she added.

The legislation makes Queensland the first jurisdiction in Australia “to acknowledge in legislation the need for children to have a voice where they must be listened to, engaged with and where active attempts must be made to understand their views,” Linard said.

The press release for the new law does not provide a draft of the Bill, which can be found on Queensland’s Parliamentary website.

Interesting clauses and amendments include:

  • Clause 8 (2): a child has the right to express the child’s views about what is, and is not, in the child’s best interests.
  • Clause 11, Obtaining Children’s Views:
    • Unless a provision of this Act states otherwise, the person must ensure the following in relation to the exercise of the power or the making of the decision-
    • (a) the child is given meaningful and ongoing opportunities to participate;
    • (b) the child is allowed to decide whether or not the child will participate;
    • (c) the child is given information that is reasonably necessary to allow the child to participate;
    • (d) the child is advised about what help is available to the child;
    • (e) the person understands and considers, or makes a genuine attempt to understand and consider, any views expressed by the child;
    • (f) the child is allowed to express views that are different to views previously expressed by the child;
    • (g) communication with the child is carried out in a way that is appropriate for the child;
    • (h) a record of views expressed by the child is made that, if appropriate, uses the child’s words.
  • If the child decides to participate in the exercise of the power or the making of the decision, the person must ensure that—
    • (a) the child is allowed to decide how the child will participate; and
    • Examples of how a child may decide to participate—
      • communicating verbally or non-verbally
      • communicating directly with a particular person
      • communicating indirectly through a trusted person, including, for example, a member of the child’s family or family group, the child’s carer or the public guardian
      • communicating indirectly through an independent person, including, for example, the child’s legal representative or health practitioner
      • communicating indirectly through a written statement or an audio or video recording
      • communicating indirectly through an expert in a report prepared by the expert
      • participating separately from particular persons
    • (b) the person listens to and engages with, or makes a genuine attempt to listen to and engage with, the child; and
    • (c) the child is given help to participate if the child requires it.
  • If the child decides not to participate, or is otherwise unable to participate, in the exercise of the power or the making of the decision, the person must ensure—
    • (a) the person obtains, or makes a genuine attempt to obtain, the views of the child in another way that is appropriate for the child; and
    • Example of a way to obtain a child’s views that may be appropriate—
    • a report prepared by a psychologist for the child
    • (b) the child’s decision, or inability, does not operate to the detriment of the child in relation to the exercise of the power or the making of the decision