Territory Stories

Annual Report 2015-2016 Office of the Children's Commissioner Northern Territory



Annual Report 2015-2016 Office of the Children's Commissioner Northern Territory

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Tabled Paper 143


Tabled Papers for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT






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Message from the Commissioner I am pleased to present a new and revised 2015-16 Annual Report, the ninth of the Childrens Commissioner of the Northern Territory (NT). This report aims to provide a visually concise summary of outcomes for vulnerable children and young people, particularly those engaged in the NT child protection, out-of-home care (OoHC), and youth justice systems. Recent machinery of government changes has aligned the departments responsible for these systems under the newly established Territory Families. This is likely to provide the Office of Childrens Commissioner (OCC) with a more streamlined ability to effectively monitor system responses to vulnerable children and young people. Current data monitoring by the OCC is limited to the administration of the CAPCA, therefore the scope of analysis undertaken with respect to young people engaged in the youth justice system is limited insofar as it relates to the young persons primary interactions with the child protection system. This report has been prepared pursuant to section 43 (1) (a) of the Childrens Commissioner Act 2013 (the Act). The Care and Protection of Children Act (CAPCA) provides a legislated framework regulating my role and providing specific responsibilities that enables this position and office to operate as an independent review body. Throughout the 2015-16 reporting year the OCC has effectively fulfilled the core functions as prescribed in the Act. As detailed in the Complaints and Investigations sections of this report, the numbers of approaches and complaint matters dealt with highlight the workload facilitated. Furthermore, the OCC finalised a number of investigations and an own initiative investigation. Through the complaints management function and investigations completed the OCC continues to focus on building its capacity to identify systemic issues affecting vulnerable children and monitoring recommendations to address these issues. The operational data analysis incorporated in the Monitoring section of this report clearly depicts the sustained increases to the workload managed by Territory Families through the increased number of notifications of potential harm to children and young people. Police remain the highest notifiers, as a result of enforcing their reporting obligations for children exposed to domestic violence. More interestingly, numbers of notifications received from health, school and other professionals have increased signalling an increase in community awareness and understanding of child abuse and neglect. The majority of substantiated notifications are neglect. These substantiations require a statutory response, and continue to overburden the child protection system. The OCC advocates for an increased focus on early intervention and prevention, to provide more holistic and coordinated support sooner to assist in the diversion of families from entering or re-entering the statutory systems. A child protection differential response system is one such solution. Such a system would see lower-risk families referred to appropriate generalist support services, as opposed to being the subject of a report and investigation by the statutory child protection department. Should this become an option, the prospective role the non-government sector could play in delivering early intervention programs and services to vulnerable children, young people and their families is important to consider. OFFICE OF THE CHILDRENS COMMISSIONER NORTHERN TERRITORY ANNUAL REPORT 2015-1610

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