The President of the Children's Court wants fundamental changes in the delivery of services to Aboriginal children in remote areas, highlighting problems in the care of an intellectually disabled teenager who has been in and out of court for four years.
In a decision published this week, Judge Denis Reynolds released the 17-year-old after finding him unfit for trial on charges of burglary, stealing and damage.
Judge Reynolds said it was "difficult to understand" a Department for Child Protection and Family Support assessment 18 months ago that found the boy's aunt and uncle suitable carers. The youth was found in Kalgoorlie sniffing paint with intoxicated adults, unkempt, hungry and unable to say when he last ate.
His uncle had been arrested the night before for firing a gun at his aunt in an incident the boy saw.
Judge Reynolds also criticised the department for suggesting the youth was responsible for his own predicament of his family's unwillingness to assume responsibility for his long-term care.
The youth came to the attention of authorities when he was two and his parents were deemed unfit to raise him because of alcohol abuse, domestic violence and frequent time in jail.
His mother is homeless, his father died four years ago and his grandmother cared for him until she became ill about 18 months ago. He has since lived with relatives in various communities.
Many referrals to support agencies could not be met because of a lack of services in the remote community he lived in.
Judge Reynolds said given the youth's history - which included possible foetal alcohol syndrome, parental neglect, lack of accommodation, petrol sniffing, illiteracy, exposure to violence and intellectual and cognitive dysfunction - it was "difficult to understand" how the department did not know whether he had counselling or accessed support.
"It seems there is a need for systemic changes in the way public agencies approach and deliver services to Aboriginal children and young people in remote Aboriginal communities," he said.
Department director-general Emma White said Judge Reynolds' findings would be carefully considered.
Ms White said protecting young children in need and supporting people in crisis were among the most complex and chronic problems faced by the WA community. She said the department was engaged with all relevant agencies to strengthen collaboration between services for children and young people who engaged in anti-social and criminal behaviour.