SA govt vows child protection reform

·2-min read

The South Australian government is vowing to move quickly to fix its child protection system following an independent review sparked by two abuse cases involving teenage girls in state care.

The review was sparked after it was revealed that Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson was not told about the cases until the offenders were sentenced.

Former District Court judge Paul Rice found Ms Sanderson should have been told about the sexual abuse of the girls, who were aged 13 and 14, and about their pregnancies.

The state government has accepted his six recommendations, which it says it will start implementing immediately.

The recommendations include requiring the Department for Child Protection Chief Executive to inform the minister about any serious allegations of criminal conduct committed against a client.

The minister should also let the chief executive know what they wish to be informed about, Mr Rice said.

Ms Sanderson said the government would introduce additional measures.

The extra plans include establishing a Significant Incident Reporting Unit, which will report to the Department for Premier and Cabinet until the government is confident that the Department for Child Protection's reporting mechanisms are being followed.

"It is clear that the current significant incident reporting is overly complex and the Department for Child Protection will now take this opportunity to re-write the policy to be clear and concise, as well as undertake an education program for staff," Ms Sanderson said in a statement.

Mr Rice described child protection staff at all levels becoming desensitised to child sexual abuse.

Abuse "becomes part of their daily diet, virtually commonplace", he said.

"Child sexual abuse of those under guardianship is just one of those many crimes against children with which they must deal. It is not seen, from within, as a sufficiently serious crime about which the minister must know."

In the first abuse case, Matthew McIntyre was jailed in September last year for sex offences committed against a 13-year-old girl.

In December, Philip McIntosh was also jailed for maintaining an unlawful sexual relationship with a girl aged between 13 and 14.

Both victims were under the guardianship of the chief executive of the Department for Child Protection at the time of the offending. Both became pregnant, one to a person other than the criminal defendant.