SA kids commissioner finally in the works

By Marnie Banger

Vulnerable kids in South Australia will soon have a commissioner championing their rights, Premier Jay Weatherill says, more than 10 years after a review of the state's child protection system recommended having one.

Mr Weatherill has released the draft terms of a Commissioner for Children and Young People role and says his government will introduce legislation to parliament in September to make it a reality.

"A Children's Commissioner will create an independent voice that cuts through and constantly demands the attention that the most vulnerable in our community deserve," Mr Weatherill said on Tuesday.

The government had been urged to create the role as far back as 2003, when it was a recommendation of the Layton Review into SA child protection.

The call was reissued last week in the recommendations from a two-year royal commission, led by former Supreme Court Justice Margaret Nyland, which laid bare the state's poor treatment of kids in its care.

The Weatherill government did try to introduce a bill to make the role in 2014, which was defeated in the upper house.

The opposition, who had rejected the bill saying it didn't give the commissioner enough investigative might, proposed a different model through a private member's bill the same year.

Mr Weatherill said the royal commission didn't support the alternative.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall lamented that it has taken the government so long to realise the importance of a commissioner to protect kids' rights.

"Sadly, it has taken the findings of a royal commission for the Weatherill Labor government to act," he said in a statement.

Mr Marshall also said the government's claim on Tuesday that the new commissioner "won't investigate individual complaints" showed its terms would fall short of the royal commission's standards.

In her 850-page report, Ms Nyland said it is essential the commissioner has "extensive powers to conduct investigations into system issues, including examination of individual circumstances where such an investigation had the capacity to highlight system issues".

But the government's draft terms of reference for the role seem to allow for investigating individual cases, if they are in the public interest.

The terms say the commissioner "may, in the course of conducting an inquiry into matters of a systemic nature, consider a matter affecting a particular child or young person".