Blue card system flawed, lawyer says

By Jamiee Burns

The Blue Card system is inadequate for protecting children, a Sunshine Coast family lawyer said today.

Family lawyer with Schultz Toomey O’Brien at Birtinya Alyson Callahan said the legislative loopholes in Blue Card applications were inadequate in protecting children.

“The check is just for convictions for child-related crime which means that a person who could harm children will get a Blue Card as long as they have never been convicted of these very specific crimes,” she said.

Current legislation only bans those convicted of child sex offences, murdering a child, or offences around child exploitation.

“There are many people in the community who are harmful to children but have not been convicted of a crime,” Mrs Callaghan said.

“It is quite common for paedophiles to operate for decades before there is an incident that results in successful prosecution.”

But a Sunshine Coast senior child protection officer, who asked not to be named and has worked with youth workers and foster carers who had extensive criminal histories, said the Blue Card system was sufficient and worked with other mechanisms.

“I really can’t identify many flaws in it honestly. The process is vigorous and Blue Card applications are just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

“I really think this uproar is based on the Tiahleigh Palmer scandal and it removes focus from other issues.”

The officer said hiring people with convictions can even be an advantage because many children in child protection have trauma-based behaviours and risk ending up in the criminal justice system themselves.

“If someone is convicted of a drug offence they can help mitigate the young person from going down the same path,” she said.

The officer says the main problems in the system lie in mandatory reporting and the standard of ‘good enough parenting’ – with a focus on reunification – within the system.

Doctors, nurses and teachers are required to report child abuse suspicions, but the officer said this was not occurring and the focus on family reunification could be harmful to children.

“For example, it’s quite common for children to be placed back in homes where there has been serious domestic violence,” she said.

“So there will be serious issues within the family but [the child protection system is] willing to work with this if the parenting is good enough.”

An analysis of QCAT findings released today revealed in the past 12 months, QCAT granted Blue Cards to 24 people with criminal convictions.

QCAT is the second tier of the Blue Card application process, handling those applications that have been initially issued with a negative notice.

However a pioneering family support program is being launched on the Sunshine Coast tomorrow.

Chancellor State College will become the first Talking Families School, a state-wide initiative which encourages parents and caregivers to reach out and ask for help in times of stress.

Today is International Day of Innocent Children Victim of Aggression.

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