Steps towards progress for Victoria’s vulnerable children, as reform and advocacy continue: Commission annual report released today

Media Releases 1 November 2023

Wednesday 1 November 2023 – for immediate release

This year has seen welcome progress on recommendations from key inquiries into child protection and out-of-home care. At the same time, the Commission’s continuing inquiries, oversight and advocacy have once again highlighted the ongoing need to better support children’s rights, safety and wellbeing. These are among the findings of the 2022–23 annual report of the Commission for Children and Young People, tabled in the Parliament of Victoria today.

‘As in previous years, our inquiry, oversight and advocacy functions have shown that despite many individuals’ best efforts, Victoria is still failing too many children and young people in our child protection, out-of-home care and youth justice systems. That said, it has been heartening to see the Victorian Government's commitment to progress on a number of fronts,’ said Liana Buchanan, Victoria’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, today.

The report details progress on recommendations against four of the Commission’s past inquiries – including In our own words on the out-of-home care system (2019), Keep caring on leaving care (2020) and Out of sight on children who go absent or missing from residential care (2021).

Residential care has seen substantial State Budget investment ($548.4m) to offer therapeutic supports to all children and young people in residential care, and to provide additional two- and three-bedroom units in response to recommendations from In our own words. Young people leaving residential care will also have guaranteed access to housing following investment ($39.5m) in response to findings in Keep caring.

The Commission’s recommendations have also seen important action to boost guidance for child protection on engaging with children and young people on the decisions affecting them.

While Out of sight has also seen renewed investment ($13.4m) to support child protection’s efforts to tackle the sexual exploitation of children in residential care, the Commission will monitor action by other agencies, including Victoria Police and residential care providers, noting the continuing prevalence and likely under-reporting of sexual abuse and exploitation.

The annual report details a range of other recommendations in progress or still planned for implementation, noting action on some of these is urgent.

In 2022–23, the Commission also completed 45 child death inquiries into the experiences of children known to child protection, and two individual inquiries – one relating to support of a child who was the sole survivor of domestic homicide, and another into a minor in adult prison who was placed in a spit hood. Under legislation, individual inquiries are not made public, but key details are included in the annual report.

The inquiry into the child survivor of domestic homicide recommended better practice guidance and an agreed multi-agency protocol to guide the roles of the various agencies required to support children in these circumstances. The inquiry into the young person placed in a spit hood in adult prison reiterated the Commission’s view that children should not be held in adult prisons and recommended prohibition of the use of spit hoods and a complete review of Corrections Victoria policies.

Themes seen in our child death inquiries and responses to the recommendations of past inquiries are also detailed in the annual report. Themes include responses to family violence; coordination and collaboration between services; premature case closure; access to services; and responses to Aboriginal children and young people.

In addition to the Commission’s inquiry work, oversight of youth justice revealed that lockdowns in Victoria’s youth justice centres almost doubled in the past year, despite a reduction in the number of children and young people in custody. Acknowledging lockdowns were largely driven by staff shortages, the Commission in March this year made representations to the Victorian Government to seek their reduction, given the impacts on detained children and young people.

Broader advocacy was also undertaken this year on a range of youth justice issues including raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14, the development of new youth justice legislation, bail reform, and the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, to which Australia is a signatory.

Further advocacy called for better safeguarding of children with disability through stronger child-safe requirements for NDIS service providers, improved responses to child victims of family violence, and enhanced supports for the mental health of children and young people.

‘Our work in 2022–23 continues to highlight the need for robust oversight and broad-ranging consideration of children and young people in framing the policies and laws that affect them. Across this work, the voices of children and young people must be central. We have welcomed the Victorian Government’s establishment of the new ministerial portfolio for children and are hopeful this reflects determination by government to keep improving outcomes for all children, including the most marginalised,’ Commissioner Buchanan concluded.

Download the Commission’s annual report.

For interview:

Liana Buchanan
Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People

Meena Singh
Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People

Media contact:

Darren Lewin-Hill
0437 046 360