An inquest into the deaths of six babies and one teenage girl has revealed disturbing inadequacies at the heart of Tasmania’s child protection service.
An inquest into the deaths of six babies and one teenage girl has revealed disturbing inadequacies at the heart of Tasmania’s child protection service.

Child Safety slammed for failure to protect girl and baby

TASMANIA's child protection agency has been slammed for failing to help a teenage mother and her baby boy before they died in a road crash at the hands of an erratic and violent youth.

A three-day inquest into the deaths of seven children, including the teen and her son, and their involvement with the Child Safety Service began in the Hobart Coroner's Court on Monday.

The other children include three babies who seemingly died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) while co-sleeping and one infant who drowned in the bath.

Child protection expert witness Bob Lonne told the court that a "troubled teenager" and her boyfriend both had considerable departmental contact as young traumatised people with high needs before the fatal 2016 crash.

He said the agency was aware the teen girl had been subject to domestic violence, but that wasn't taken into account in determining if the young family was at significant risk.

"What was evident was that (the youth) was quite an angry young man, had major issues trying to regulate his own behaviour - he would get steamed up and get angry and violent towards others," Prof Lonne said.

"The safety plan was too optimistic."

He said it was foreseeable that "this was going to have a bad outcome and that timely intervention by the department was required".

He also described the agency's assessment of the young family as "deficient and tardy", with "unacceptable" delays contributing to the teen and her baby's deaths.

Prof Lonne said the correct approach would have been to remove the pair to "a place of safety" and to work with the young man to address his "propensity for violence and risk-taking behaviours".

The professor also discussed the case of a three-month-old baby who died in 2014 while sleeping in bed with his mother, noting the family was known to - but largely unwilling to engage with the Department of Health.

"(The family were) Indigenous Australians and were in many respects understandably suspicious and reluctant to be involved with the department," Professor Lonne said.

"That is not unusual for Aboriginal families, not least because of the stolen generations and the removal of children.

"The department did work quite hard to try to engage the family. The mother and the father would make agreements to access particular agencies and would do that for a little while, and then cease contact with support agencies."

The inquest continues.

 

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.

 

amber.wilson@news.com.au

 

 

 

Originally published as Child Safety slammed for failure to protect girl and baby


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