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Scarred forever by DOCS's picture
on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 16:27
Fight Child Protection Department Corruption: 

QUEENSLAND has more children in care than criminals in prisons, and the number keeps growing despite mounting investment in child protection, an inquiry has been told.

At a preliminary hearing of the 10-month commission of inquiry into child safety, counsel assisting the crown, Kathryn McMillan SC, said there were 7602 children in out-of-home care in Queensland in 2011, compared with 5527 prisoners.

The children were in foster care, kinship care, other state-approved care or a residential care service.

The number of children in care rose by 1600 in the 11 years to 2011 despite a steady increase in government spending on the child safety sector, Ms McMillan said at the hearing in Brisbane on Tuesday.

"There is understandably widespread concern that despite the considerable and increasing resource commitment to child protection, the number of children under the formal care of the state continues to rise," she said.

Ms McMillan said the inquiry would look at whether a child deemed to be at "an unacceptable degree of risk" could be kept safely at home, "instead of being subjected to the inevitable distress and emotional trauma of being removed indefinitely and perhaps in some situations needlessly".

Hetty Johnston, who founded the child safety advocacy group Bravehearts, says the number of children in care is frightening.

"It's a reality and there's families torn apart everywhere," she told reporters outside the court.

"Hopefully (the inquiry will) find a better way to manage all of that".

Meanwhile, inquiry commissioner Tim Carmody SC is expected to hear a request to stand down before the probe begins.

The former Queensland Crime Commissioner has been criticised in the past for not supporting a public inquiry into the infamous 22-year-old Heiner affair during his tenure.

The affair revolves around the deliberate shredding by the Queensland government of documents relating to the alleged 1988 rape of a girl in state care.

A inquiry into the allegations chaired by magistrate Noel Heiner was later found to have been wrongly constituted, and the inquiry documents were shredded - on legal advice - to prevent litigation.

Critics including whistleblower Kevin Lindeberg continue to argue that evidence was illegally destroyed.

A number of Senate inquiries have found no impropriety.

During Tuesday's preliminary hearing, Mr Carmody said he was obligated to disclose his connection with the affair.

He told the court he was nearing the end of his tenure as Queensland Crime Commissioner when he was asked to support a public inquiry.

"Against that background, I will hear any argument or submission from any party about ... (the affair) and my role in inquiring into it," he said.

David Rofe, QC, for Kevin Lindeberg, told the court he would make a submission by next week that Mr Carmody stand down as commissioner of the inquiry.

The hearing was adjourned until an unspecified day early next week.