Protecting Victoria's Vulnerable Children Inquiry: Report

Written on the 23 May 2012

I am pleased to speak on the report entitled Report of the Protecting Victoria's Vulnerable Children Inquiry, better known as the Cummins report, which deals with a very significant issue. I know a number of members have already commented on this report, and I would like to make a few comments this afternoon.


I say at the outset that I commend those who have been involved with this report. As we know, it was launched last year by the Premier to comprehensively investigate systemic problems in Victoria's child protection system and to make recommendations to the government to improve the protection and support of vulnerable young Victorians. The foreword in volume 1 of the report talks about the purpose of the inquiry and the inquiry itself. It says:


"Consistent with its terms of reference, the inquiry did not consider or make recommendations regarding the circumstances of individual cases or review individual organisations. This enabled the inquiry to concentrate on its task of systemic review of all that constitutes Victoria's approach and performance in relation to protecting its vulnerable children and young people."


Last year when this issue was raised the Premier said:


"Thousands of vulnerable, at-risk children were neglected by the previous Labor government and its legacy is a child protection system in crisis."


Sadly that was further reiterated by the executive summary of this report, which says:


"Over the past decade, the number of Victorian children and young people in out-of-home care has increased by 44 per cent -- an annual growth of around 4 per cent a year ... "


In the introduction section the report goes on to say:


"The inquiry heard many distressing expenses from and about individuals ..."


We should all be mindful of those experiences and take into consideration how difficult that was for many of the witnesses who appeared before the inquiry. Those issues are not all that concerns me on this page of the report, which also says:


"Estimates prepared by Deloitte Access Economics for the inquiry indicate that the total lifetime financial costs of child abuse and neglect that occurred in Victoria for the first time in 2009-10 is between $1.6 and $1.9 billion."


That is a significant amount. It goes on to say:


"Each individual case of child abuse and neglect continues to create costs for the community long after the abuse stops, or the neglect is addressed. This is because child abuse and neglect increases the costs of health care and education, housing and supported accommodation assistance, court-related matters and crime, and leads to significant productivity losses."


I commend, firstly, the Premier, and secondly, the Minister for Community Services, Mary Wooldridge, for taking this situation and those concerns very seriously and for the actions that they have taken to address those concerns.


The aspects of the report I have highlighted show to the Victorian community the extent of this issue and how the Victorian government is addressing the issues.


The report contains 90 recommendations and 20 findings and identifies 40 matters for attention. As I said, the minister has taken on a number of those concerns and is addressing them. In the 2012-13 budget a number of funding measures have been allocated, including funding to recruit 42 additional front-line child protection workers. There are a number of other areas to look at in relation to further protection. A media release from the Premier of 1 May says:


Premier Ted Baillieu said the Victorian coalition government had allocated $336 million in the budget for vulnerable children and their families.


"This is in addition to $98 million in funding to improve the child protection system that we provided in the last budget to start the reforms" ...


There are a number of other recommendations in relation to this report that I cannot go into in detail. It is a significant report. It has many recommendations, and those involved, especially the minister, should be commended for the work undertaken.

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