Children’s Guardian Reflects On Our Changing Sector

On March 30, NSW Children’s Guardian Kerryn Boland visited ACWA to speak with a full room of members about the sigificant changes occurring within the sector.

Her presentation addressed two key points, the first being a review of the Working with Children Check (WWCC), followed by her initial perspective on the future role of the Office of The Children's Guardian with reference to the upcoming re-tendering process.

Ms Boland presented a brief overview of the current WWCC and highlighted some additional amendments for consideration prior to the next legislative review in March 2018. While the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse are said to have been in general conformance with those of the Office of the Children's Guardian, Ms Boland said her office will be seeking future consultation in order to appropriately clarify a number of definitions in the WWCC for various roles including Parent Volunteer. She also reported that guidelines on ‘Principles for Child Safe Organisations’ will be put out for consultation on April 11.

Ms Boland adopted a more informal Q&A style approach in the second half of her presentation, where she addressed the future role of the Office of the Children’s Guardian in the out-of-home care sector.

She shared her praise of the Tune Report with ACWA members, particularly for its inclusion of children and young people in care, calling it “an important opportunity for kids to be in the centre”. She repeatedly emphasised the importance for the reforms to consider the best interests of the child first and foremost.

“Our lens is primarily on the child and what happens to each child,” she said.

Ms Boland also reflected on concerns that the upcoming changes to the sector are being implemented with very little consultation with young people in out-of-home care.

“My view is that they're being consulted second,” she said.

Another concern Ms Boland expressed was in relation to the role of the Office of the Children's Guardian moving forward. Currently the Office of the Children's Guardian, as independent statutory authority, oversees the monitoring of all NSW organisations that interact with children including those providing out-of-home care services.

“We aim to guarantee that any child coming into care, NGO or government, will experience the same treatment,” she said, while suggesting that the new reforms are likely to make this role more difficult in the future.

She explained that, as a regulator, it is necessary for the Office of the Children’s Guardian to have a clear oversight across the sector, but emphasised that the upcoming reforms would ensure that NGOs will have to become more transparent while the Department of Family and Community Services becomes “more opaque”.

Ms Boland concluded her well received presentation by acknowledging the Office of the Children's Guardian’s continued “engaging and proactive role” in the organisations that provide out-of-home care as well as with children and young people in need.

Photo: NSW Children’s Guardian Kerryn Boland and ACWA Deputy CEO Wendy Foote.