Accountability for children in Queensland

The department is accountable for the protection of children in Queensland. Should clients, carers, licensed care service staff or other interested persons hold concerns about the decisions or actions of departmental officers, various external accountability mechanisms are available, including:

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) was established under the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2000. QCAT looks into government decisions about children and young people in the care of the department and seeks to provide merit reviews of specific reviewable decisions, as outlined in the Child Protection Act 1999, schedule 2.

It is an independent body, which currently has an appointed President, located within the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. It is usually made up of three people who have experience in many areas including children's issues, law and health. QCAT, while similar to a court, operates in a less formal manner and seeks to avoid an overly legalistic approach to cases, for example, legal representation is at the discretion of QCAT, based on the issues of each case.

In reviewing a decision QCAT may:

  • agree with a decision (the decision stays the same)
  • disagree with a decision (as if the decision had never been made)
  • change some aspects of a decision
  • make a new decision.

Those who may apply for a review of decisions under the Child Protection Act 1999, include:

  • children or, if the child is too young, another person may do this on their behalf
  • parents
  • the Office of the Public Guardian
  • in specified circumstances, the child's carer.

An application for the review of a decision needs to be made to QCAT within 28 days of the decision being communicated in writing by the department. QCAT's role is finalised once a decision has been handed down. QCAT is not able to follow up on a case or manage or oversee cases.

The Office of the Public Guardian

The Office is an independent statutory body which promotes and protects the rights, interests and well-being of all children and young people in Queensland. The Office is independent and its decisions are not influenced by any government department or other agency.

The role of the Office is to:

  • monitor and review laws, policies and practices impacting on services provided to children and young people
  • administer a state-wide Community Visitor Program for children and young people in alternative care - including foster care and residential services
  • receive and investigate complaints about services to children and young people known to the department
  • maintain Child Death Register, administering the Child Death Case Review Committee and conducting research into child deaths
  • employment screening of certain types of child-related employment (for example, Blue Cards)
  • educate the community to comply with the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Act 2000
  • monitor and review laws, policies and practices that impact on the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people at risk
  • conduct research into issues impacting on the safety and well being of children and young people, and
  • promote laws, policies and practices that uphold the rights, interests and wellbeing of children and young people, particularly those at risk

Community Visitors are appointed to visit children and young people in out-of-home care to ensure they are provided with appropriate care, to advocate on their behalf, help resolve any concerns or grievances and offer support if required. For further information refer to the Community Visitors Publications.

Crime and Misconduct Commission

The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) is a statutory body, answerable to the people of Queensland through an all-party parliamentary committee, the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee. Under the terms of the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001, the CMC operates on three major 'fronts':

  • fighting major crime
  • raising public sector integrity
  • protecting witnesses.

The CMC has a major role to improve the integrity of the public sector and to reduce the incidence of official misconduct in the Queensland public sector. In collaboration with government departments, the CMC handles any serious concerns Queenslanders may have about the misconduct of public officials.

The CMC is not a court but can refer matters to the Director of Public Prosecutions with a view to criminal prosecution, or to the appropriate chief executive officer to consider disciplinary action. The CMC can also charge officers with official misconduct in a Misconduct Tribunal.

The role of Human Resources and Ethical Standards is to liaise with the CMC on matters relating to possible official misconduct reported from within the department.

When a person within the department becomes aware of possible official misconduct or a criminal offence, the CMC must be notified through the manager of the Human Resources and Ethical Standards Branch. The CMC will assess the matter and decide whether to deal with it or alternatively refer it back to the department to deal with.

The CMC may also refer matters to the Human Resources and Ethical Standards Branch from:

  • complaints made by the public
  • information from whistle blowers, anonymous sources or newspaper articles
  • their own activities or intelligence sources.

Many matters come from chief executive officers of public sector agencies who have a statutory obligation to inform the CMC of any suspected official misconduct occurring in their own agency or department. The Crime and Misconduct Act 2001 requires the CMC to refer the matter to the appropriate department, wherever possible.