Charter of Rights of Parents with Disability in their interactions with Child Protection System

This webinar is part of the ‘Advancing your advocacy Practice’ series, held on 26 April 2023.


The Charter was released in February 2023 and aims to improve outcomes for parents and carers with disabilities who come into contact with Child Protection in Victoria. The Charter recognises that parents and carers have the right to a relationship with their children.

The panel discuss the principles and design of the Charter and how it works operationally. Is it effective as an advocacy tool? Does it uphold the rights of parents with disability when they come into contact with the child protection system?

The panelists include:

  • Miranda Bain, Funds In Court Human Rights Advisory Committee Deputy Chair
  • Susan Arthur, Positive Powerful Parents, Self Advocacy Group for parents with intellectual disability
  • Frederikke Jensen, Advocacy Manager, VALID
  • Denise Boyd, Executive Officer,, STAR Victoria


Scroll to the bottom of this post for links referred to during the session.


Good morning everyone and welcome to advance Your Advocacy Practice.  My name is Melissa Hale and I’m the manager of the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit and it’s a pleasure to be your host at this session today.

Before we start, I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting today on the unseeded land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.  I would also like to pay my respect to all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on this call today.

Today’s session is about advancing your practice as advocates so please make sure that you add to your learning by asking questions in the Q&A box and I’ll put them to our panel. If we run out of time, the panelists will follow up with answers after the session concludes.  The session will be recorded and made available on the DARU website for your reference, along with any other resources that are mentioned today.

In February 2023 a new Charter of Rights for Parents and Carers with Disability      Involved with the Child Protection in Victoria was released by the Funds in Court Human rights Advisory Committee which is a department within the Supreme Court of Victoria.  The Charter aims to improve outcomes for parents and carers with disability who come into contact with child protection in Victoria.

It recognises that parents and carers have a right to a relationship with their children.  It also recognises child protection has a legal responsibility to promote the child’s best interest and safety, and throughout their involvement with the child, should engage with the parents and carers in an open and transparent way.

This session aims to delve more into the detail of what the Charter means on the ground for parents and carers with disability and what impact this will have on disability advocates working with clients in child protection spaces.

To explore more, we have a panel here today.  So the panelists we have here today are Miranda Bain, Director of Strategy, government and Community Relations at Funds in Court and also the Deputy Chair of the Human Rights Advisory Committee at Funds in Court who took carriage of this project.  Susan Arthur, a self advocate from Positive Powerful Parents self advocacy group supporting parents with intellectual disability who have interactions with child protection  systems.  Frederikke Jensen, an advocacy Manager from VALID and Denise Boyd who is Executive Officer from Star Victoria.

So welcome everybody and thank you for your time today.

But first I’d like to throw to Miranda.  Miranda can you tell us a bit about the Charter, how it came to being and what it hopes to achieve.

Thank you for inviting me here.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to talk about the Charter and also the work of the Human Rights Advisory Committee.

So I thought I’d give a brief historical summary of how we came to be here. So the Human Rights Advisory committee is made up of many organisations, so it’s a multi jurisdictional approach to solving issues around access to justice.

It began in 2016 with support of the then Chief Justice, Marilyn Warren  AC, and in the course of that work we were introduced, through another initiative of the committee, to Susan Arthur who told us her story, and in particular her involvement with child protection.  And Susan Arthur is with us today and she can talk to that.

From a human rights perspective, what we were interested in knowing originally was why was there an over representation of people with a disability, particular people with intellectual disability, in the court system and more broadly in other jurisdictions.  So in late 2016 we set up a working group, which is the model we followed, and we included from that day child protection and we had psychologists, near psychs and other people involved in one way or another, with people with disability justice.

That working group wanted to examine some of the underlying assumptions around someone who has a disability and how that disability is perceived, and whether or not those underlying assumptions were correct.  Historically we found that the authorities believed that people with a disability, in particular with an intellectual disability, had parenting inadequacies.  So when they came before them in a court, and this has been the subject of national and international research, they thought the baby would do better if you remove the biological mum and dad and be placed in out of home care.

So when we drilled down a little bit more, we realised that the assumption behind that belief was that parents who had a disability, particularly an intellectual disability including learning and other difficulties, couldn’t be shown or educated on how to adequately raise their baby.

I don’t want to spend too much time on this but I wanted to let you know that the first studies around these sorts of issues began in the early 1980’s and continue today.  The research was basically from an observational point of view, so when I go into the home, take notes, there seems to be some gaps. And from those gaps, the authorities would then assume that the environment wasn’t the right environment to raise a baby.

Later research found, around 2000 to 2014, showed that the prevalent view, namely that teaching parents with disability, and in particular intellectual disability, required very expensive behavioural interventions.  So you can see how it becomes an issue of cost, not whether this is a true statement.

We then went overseas and we had a look at Maurice Feldman’s Step By Step Guide, so this is 2016 to today, and the Department of Human Services invited Maurice to come over and he talked about the step by step guide.  And we went to the department asking them to fund a pilot using that program.  That funding request was not successful.

So then we were introduced to Tweddle, the baby sleep hospital as it was commonly known as, and we had a look at their host program.  The host program has recently been funded by the department to work with mums and dads with an intellectual disability to raise their baby.  The key to that is family preservation, new teaching skills and not losing the baby to out of home care.

So you can see the history of how we came to want to have a Charter.  Because even if we targeted some parents, and we had some funding, and we were able to change the coarse of the involvement of the child protection with particular families, it would always be not enough.  We would never be able to do enough.

So we went back to the department in 2020 and began to talk with them through COVID about a Charter and what that would look like.  That working group was, again, made up of human rights lawyers, child protection from DFFH and other members including a Psychologist, and we began to work on some of the principles we would like to have in the Charter.

So you’ve heard a little bit about the Charter and why it’s here.

The purpose of the Charter is to improve outcomes for parents and carers with disability who have an involvement with child protection and it does recognise the right of parents and carers to have a relationship with their child.  So the emphasis is on family preservation, not separation, and it does recognise that there is a kind of tension there.

The department does have a legal responsibility to protect the child and ensure that the best interest and safety are paramount.  And yet the right of the parent in that over arching responsibility, it was agreed, had not really been promoted.  But there still remains a tension.

So the rights in the Charter are consistent with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act (2006), The Equal Opportunity Act (2010, the Children and Families Act2005).)

So one of the key things in developing this Charter was to make sure that the legal implications of the Charter for both parties, mums and dads and the department ,was very carefully looked at.  The Charter doesn’t set out the legal obligations, it sets out expectations  under human rights and we needed to make that compatible.

The principle that we started on was that mums and dads with disability had the right to participate , to be heard and to be included.  They have the absolute right to respect.  They have the right to information in accessible formats.  They have the right to have support, which we think of as the role of the advocate, and they have the right to be treated fairly.  In each one of those rights we drill down and is translated into what does that mean for a mum and dad involved in child protection.

We also produced this Charter in an easy access format that was work done by the Council for Intellectual Disabilities in NSW and that is also available to download.

There are obligations.  Child protection will provide a copy of the Charter to child protection workers who are undergoing training currently, and must provide a copy of the Charter in the first contact with a mum or a dad.  Child protection practitioners must discuss the Charter, the statements in it, and what you, the parent, the mum and dad, can expect from their interaction with child protection.  A copy will be provided in the first initial meeting in digital format (most child protection workers have a laptop that they take with them) and they must provide the name and contact details of the child protection worker and their manager.

What do we need now?  We need advocates to empower, which is what you do already.  We’re asking you to empower your clients by seeking out this Charter and making sure that it is read, used and accessed by all the parties in the room.

And if you feel it isn’t, that there is a conversation or discussion that isn’t respectful, that doesn’t recognise the rights of the mums and dads, that they are not fully informed, that decisions are being made too quickly and that there is an inbalance.  Change is hard and people’s workloads are massive and we don’t want any shortcuts.  So we’re asking you to really make sure that the Charter is accessed and used in every conceivable way, in the conversations that go on between a mum and dad with a disability and with child protection.

These are very early days.  We launched it in February.  The training, this is my understanding, has just begun.  We’re having a look at the Charter and implementation and what are the obstacles and the barriers for a person with disability to asking for it.

All of you in the room will have a thousand stories of someone who has a disability who has an involvement with child protection and how that is so anxiety provoking.  That mum and dad might not want to ask for the Charter because it’s already so fraught, a very stressful environment for them.  But it will make it better.  It’s a way of guiding a conversation and making it fair and equitable.  And that’s the purpose of the Charter to set out a new way of having a conversation which is respectful.

If you come across any issues with this, don’t hesitate to email me or give me a call.  I’m here to hear what the obstacles are, and what the barriers are, and we would also ask you to contact the department and talk with them around the obstacles and barriers you are seeing in your work.

I think that’s probably enough from me.

Thanks very much Miranda.  Very much appreciated.

I think I might check in now with Susan and ask about her perspective as well on the Charter.

Hi Susan


you’re a representative of Positive Powerful Parents and I’m sure the audience would love to know a little bit more about Positive Powerful Parents.  What can you tell me about the group?

So Positive Powerful Parents is run by and for parents with an intellectual disability who have had involvement with the child protection system.  So we make sure all the parents get their rights.  You can also find us on the internet at (link below).

Fantastic.  I’ll make sure that that website is on your resources later so that people can have a look at that website as well.

So what do you think about the Charter?

We think the parent’s voice still needs to be in there.  We think the pages need to be formatted differently.  It would be nice if the state government logo was on it to show that they have endorsed it.  Acknowledgement of country should be in there.  The explanations should be clearer and some of what’s written in the Charter is great and it’s exciting to see some good stuff in writing.

Yeah so it needs to be clearer for parents to understand what’s in it so that they’re able to use it in their interactions with child protection.  Absolutely, really important.

What are you hoping, that having the Charter, would be able to do for parents who have interactions with the child protection system?

Positive Powerful Parents were really lucky recently to meet with someone with child protection and we know that they will use it so that’s a positive thing.  As Miranda said, they’re being trained on it as we speak.

For parents to get a copy and understand it would be great.  Positive Powerful Parents also think that parents shouldn’t get a copy from the child protection worker in that first visit because they’re not likely to take any of it in, what the child protection worker explains to them, because they’re already stressed, as Miranda already sort of suggested before, very stressed and upset.

So Positive Powerful Parents is actually suggesting that advocates should give them the Charter and explain to them what their rights are so that they don’t have to feel like they are having that conversation straight away with child protection.  And I, as a parent, would be worried that that the parent may sort of back off a bit after that. How parents could understand their rights so they can be strong advocates for themselves.  They may not need advocates for the future. Parents and advocates can use the rights while being involved with child protection.

Yeah that’s the goal.  One day we won’t need advocates at all because everyone has the same rights as everybody else.  One thing I would like to say to you, and all the other parents involved in Positive Powerful Parents, is thank you for your advocacy because it’s because of people like you that we have this Charter in the first place and it’s a great first step to be able to recognise the rights of parents and carers with a disability and their rights in the child protection space. So best of luck and we’re all behind you and hopefully this changes things for a lot of people.  Well done.

So the next people I would like to talk to now is Frederikke and Denise about your perspective of disability advocates working alongside people with disabilities in the child protection space.

So having now heard about the Charter, having heard from Positive Powerful Parents as well, what do you see as the benefits of having this Charter in the child protection manual with your work as disability advocates?  So perhaps we’ll start with you Frederikke.

Yeah, it’s a step in the right direction I would say, to have the Charter in the manual, but on its own it’s not going to do much difference.  I think we need to remember all the structural issues and look at this holistically as well because obviously we work in this space and what we see is that parents with intellectual disability have been in the system themselves and they have felt the structural violence that sometimes comes from systems like child protection, unfair treatment.

They also live in poverty quite often and the Charter is not going to change the fact that a mother with intellectual disability cannot afford to get to access because she might live in a regional town and NDIS is not necessarily going to fund her getting access with her child when she has to travel into a major city to get that access .  So there are lots of issues here.

We certainly welcome that there is a Charter now that sort of sits alongside, on top of the Human Rights Charter and Equal Opportunity Act which we will frequently call out when we see injustices happening  in this space.  This is more specific around child protection so I think that’s helpful to have that.

I think we have to see how it will work in practice and I also think it will be interesting, Sue said it before about the power imbalance when you sit as a parent with child protection and that you will feel stressed out and upset, and you may not want to have that discussion, so it’s a good thing that they give the Charter out.

Some of the parents that we work with can’t read so I certainly would say that it might be a good thing to put it up on a website and make a bit of a video and audio file about it, so lots more resources that are accessible.

The other thing, I think, that really needs to be thought about going forward, and this goes for all areas that we work in as advocates, it’s not mandated that parents with intellectual disability when they’re involved with child protection system, gets an advocate.  So there is no guarantee with the advocacy that’s funded in that space in Victoria.  It’s a small group of parents who get that support.

I also think that grassroots organisations like Positive Powerful Parents are extremely important in this space and, as I said, we will use the Charter and we will be holding everyone accountable in this space, as we’ve always done, but I think it important to monitor.  It’s a good opportunity to have the discussion down the track and highlight the structural issues that I’ve just mentioned and the problems in that.

Great, thank you for that.  Now, Denise, do you have anything to add?

Yes, thanks very much for that.  I agree with much that Frederikke has said.  I would note that the Charter is actually for parents and carers with disability and not specifically for parents with intellectual disability.  Because PPP, VALID and Star are here today we’re focussing on parents with intellectual disability as that’s our area of specialty.

I would note that probably the Charter is a good step forward but it does need, in my view, a legislative backing.  Because at the moment it’s included in the child protection manual, it’s been rolled out, the training we know hasn’t been rolled out across the board so the child protection workers don’t yet necessarily know whenever they come into contact with a parent with disability that they need to use that.  Although I’m optimistic that that will be changing this year as the training rolls out.

But I would agree that every parent, particularly parents with intellectual disability, need to be assigned an advocate immediately, not just happily stumble over one because somebody happened to mention it to them.  They need to be assigned one right from the start because that really is the only way to make sure that their rights and wishes are understood and heard.

We know that parents who do have an advocate fair a lot better and get a much better hearing than parents who don’t have an advocate.  So in the same way that every parent goes through the children’s court is assigned a lawyer through Legal Aid, I do think that they should be assigned a professional disability advocate to help them in their discussions and negotiations with the department.

I would say that with this legislative trigger, the Charter should be a compliment to that.  In the legislation at the moment there is a trigger if the child is Aboriginal and that requires certain things to be done.  But there’s no trigger in the legislation yet for parents with disability and particularly for parents with intellectual disability, and that’s a deficiency in the Act.

We do hav obligations in Victoria and in Australia generally under the United Nations Convention on the rights of People with Disability under article 23 which is ‘respect for home and the family’.  There is a right for all persons with disability to marry and to find a family and it also says that in no case should a child be separated from their parents the basis of disability, either the child or one or both of the parents.

And yet when we look at the documents that are tabled in the children’s court, certainly for the people that Star is working with, people with intellectual disability features pretty high up the list of protected concerns.  And that’s what Miranda was talking about earlier, this idea that parents with intellectual disability are not capable of learning new things and can’t be trusted to parent their children safely.

Now we know that that’s wrong , it’s outmoded thinking, but a lot of conscious and unconscious bias still exists in the system and that needs to be tackled.  The Charter is one way forward with that, but we actually do need the law to back up what the child protection workers are required to do when it is identified when a parent has an intellectual disability.

No parent should have to play the postcode lottery about whether or not they’re able to get assistance or not.  Unfortunately that’s what we see right now.


Thanks guys.  Can I see everyone else on the screen please. Great.

So I’ve got one question I want to put to all of you.  With the Charter in action now, what does a great outcome look like?

I might go to Susan first.  So we have this Charter, what do you hope that a good outcome looks like?  What’s the ideal outcome?

I think the ideal outcome for parent would be, as we’ve just said, as a lot of people have said, the parents get to keep their children with the support they need and get an advocate early on.  That should be mandated and even the doctors should know about it so that when the parent goes to the doctor to get a test and find out they are pregnant, that should be when an advocate should be put in place.

We got that UN Charter that Denise suggested but it’s very rarely actioned on and the opposite happens.  Our children are taken with no or very little action taken to see what support we could have to see if we can look after our children.  Which the majority of the time, a parent with intellectual disability can parent a child with the support they need.

Fantastic answer Susan.  So what about the rest of you?  What does a great outcome look like? Miranda?

An ideal outcome is that any parent with a disability… no I want to say something before that…

The charter is being used by child protection for anyone coming into the system because they realise that someone with a disability may not disclose it, they may not be able to pick up that someone has a disability, so therefore, the Charter of rights will be available to anyone who has any involvement with child protection.

I’ll just go back to the earlier point that Susan made, the department decided that they wouldn’t put their logo on it, not because they weren’t endorsing it, but they thought that there are so many negative perceptions of the role of the department, they thought the logo would be a disincentive for the Charter being picked up by anyone who needed it.

When you think about human rights and family preservation, ideally the best outcome would be that any person, parent or carer with disability, is given every single opportunity to support to raise their baby and toddler in their own home.

The support really should be in the home with the understanding you have an intellectual disability (inaudible) that is that a mum or dad with an intellectual disability learns better when they are being shown what to do in the context of their home and it’s also where systems of support can be more ideally recognised in accordance with a system of support means family support, family or friend support and professional, I guess like the host program, that those supports are put into the home where they matter most.

The thing that Denise said, I think is completely correct.  That is that the Charter begins with, for memory, with what the Victims Crime Charter began with, and that then became the standard document, kind of referral, and it became a working document and it was then enshrined in legislation.  We’re not there yet.

But ideally legislation would be looked at, and legislation should be changed because legislation is built on an outmoded, inaccurate, unfair, biased perception of someone’s capacity to parent shouldn’t be enshrined in legislation.  It must be changed. And that I think is something that they all should be looking at.

Thanks for that Miranda.  Denise, what does a great outcome look like for you?

Thanks for that.

Well a great outcome for me is that the Charter is able to contribute to the conversation that we are having in Victoria about the rights and interests of parents with disability ad in particular parents with intellectual disability.  We expect that there will be an opportunity to make changes to the legislation in the next couple of years and that the government is open to questioning its own legislation, and the biases that we know exist, and to take steps to remedy them.

And if the Charter is one of those trigger points, if you like, for having that conversation, then it will have already done its job and that would be a great thing.

Fantastic.  Thank you for that.

And last, but not least, frederikke what would a great outcome look like for you?

Look, in addition to what others have said, I agree with what they are saying in terms of outcomes, but I also think it would be really prudent to look at the practicality of improving things for parents.

Also, as others have said, funding for advocacy but also to look at things a bit more politically when a parent has involvement with child protection.  So NDIS certainly needs to be looked at because that’s where some of the support does come from today.  And we do see some good examples of NDIS Support Coordinators who are aware of the parent’s rights and they will sometimes act in advocacy roles as well and ensure that the parent gets extra funding and support through NDIS.  Not all NDIS planners favour this, we see some different outcomes.

In addition to legal changes, and certainly looking at the cultural changes, the unconscious bias, that’s a huge thing, but look at the practicality of things.

I think, Miranda referred to it earlier, child protection workers have a huge workload and it needs to be accounted for that they’ve got that extra time.  We see this all the time, clients that I consult with I go  , I go with, be it justice, child protection, or facing criminal charges, there’s not enough time for the lawyer to sit down and speak to the person because they need to spend the extra time.

So yeah, overall looking at the practicality of all this and how this can be improved.  I would hope, as Denise also said, having the Charter we can have more discussions about this just like what we are having right now.

thank you everybody.  It sounds like it’s an ongoing work in progress.  I’m sure the advocacy sector will all gather round to make this work for everyone.  It’s an important piece of work.

We’re going to go to questions from the audience.  They’re coming in thick and fast so we’re not going to be able to answer all the questions.  But we’ll go through some of them and then offline I will forward on the other questions and hopefully you can answer them offline to forward onto the group later.

I’ll go to the first question.  Is the Charter to be introduced to existing child protection clients or only to new clients as of February?

That’s quite a technical one.  Miranda, would you like to tackle that one first?

My current understanding is that it will be available to new clients however, existing clients can ask for it and have it introduced into the conversation with their child protection worker.

So again we’re very reliant on the role of the advocate and the support person in the room to make sure that the Charter is being used.

Ok great.  Has anybody got anything else to add to that?Denise.

Yeah it does depend on the parent knowing that the Charter exists. So there needs to be a little bit more work done in that regard because you can’t use something that you don’t know about.

That’s why we rely on the advocate and the support workers IN THESE EARLY DAYS  to promote it and to make sure people are accessing it and that it’s being used properly.

Great thanks.  Next question.

For a matter where the court handed down a permanent care order in say 2016, is the Charter able to be accessed by parents who are subject to an existing order?  Will these parents be notified of the Charter by child protection?

Hmmm.  I’m going to have to take that on notice.  Denise, I’m happy to hand it over.

I’ll give it a go.  But my understanding is that when it’s a permanent care order then the child is no longer under the care of the department, it’s under the care of the person whom the court has assigned care of the child.  So I would say, my interpretation of that would be, no, there would be no obligation to notify the parents.  It’s not to say that they shouldn’t have it, but I would suggest that if there is that order then the child has been put under a permanent care order and that’s a lot harder.  But I could be wrong.

That points to Denise’s point earlier about the role of legislation.  It should be that charter does have an impact on these various situations .  For that to happen, we’d have to change the legislation.

Ok. Next question.

What is of most concern often is that people cannot read or understand the documents sent to them and don’t have the time to ask for help to understand.  Processes of the child protection workers don’t allow for this and to slow down.

And that goes back to what Susan was saying before about sometimes some of the things including the Charter, can sometimes be really difficult to understand.

I suppose it was more of a comment than a question but I’m going to turn it into a question.  What is being done to make sure that some of the processes used by child protection are more user friendly for people with intellectual disability?

Can I answer this slightly differently in that the role of the Charter should be in accessible formats.  I think we are looking to see if we can get some funding to turn it into a Youtube video and audio track.  So once we’ve tested it, it means it will be available in accessible formats from any internet site.

So before any involvement with child protection, a parent, a mum or a dad, would be able to access the information with an advocate or a support person and understand, and grow to understand its usefulness.

The other part to that question really, I think, centres on Frederick’s point, and that is that systems themselves are very rigid and work against a conversation, and that’s something that we will be taking up with the department once they’ve done their training bit to see what can change in that environment to make a conversation easier.

There are some system issues here.  They’ve got workload issues, competing tensions, a very anxious provoking  moment.

In any other environment they would try and understand what was happening in a personal way and you would spend time with a psych counsellor or a trauma counsellor, there would be time given.  There would be appropriate time given for reflective practice and a conversation that would occur without the heat of the moment, putting pressure on the type of the discussion .

Now that is a systems issue.  I think that when you think about equity and access to justice, you would want to have an environment where that level of conversation would occur.  That’s a practice issue.  I’m happy to take that up.

Next question.  Would the advocacy come from our mainstream advocacy services or would those advocates receive training in the Charter?

So this is a question about the Charter and whether we would receive training about the Charter. Anyone able to answer that?  Perhaps that’s something we need to think about Denise?

Yeah I would say that certainly child protection is a specialist issue.  So Star Victoria does provide individual advocacy to people with intellectual disability but we have specialised into two key areas, one of which is parents with intellectual disability and child protection, just because it is so technical.

It is something for parents with disability generally.  I think that it is something that is useful for all disability advocacy organisations to be aware of but it does require training.  So it would require professional development session run by advocates with experience in the issue partnered with probably someone like women’s Legal Service, who have lots of experience working with parents as they go through children’s court.

You do need to understand the court processes in order to support parents effectively.  It’s not just about understanding what the child protection processes are.  the court process is quite specific.

And then to also understand your role as an advocate, how you can actively support them.  You need to basically, not just knock politely on doors but effectively push them open and demand that parents rights and interests are taken into consideration throughout the process.  Because that often does get lost.

Thanks for that.

Can I add to what Denise said.  Apart from understanding the court process, understanding parents with disability and what barriers they face and the discrimination they face as well, on top of that as advocates you really need to understand the system that is child protection and how to work with that.

It can be really difficult to work in that space and it takes quite a lot of knowledge and skills to do that.  And sometimes it’s an uphill battle because of the nature of the system.   Traditionally they look at the child’s interests and don’t look at the situation holistically so you are up against all that when you work in that system in addition to the court processes and the barriers clients are facing.

thanks for that.  We’ve got time for perhaps two more questions.

Denise, I agree access to advocacy for parents with disability is critical.  I’m interested in your thoughts on what the impact would be on the disability advocacy sector if assigning disability advocates were mandated in the way you suggested?

I was wondering if anyone was going to pick up on that.  If it’s mandated then that means that the government has to fund advocacy properly.  It’s kind of why I said that because at the moment, it really is luck of the draw if people get a disability advocate.

They do have a legal entitlement to representation in the court but they similarly need a disability advocate to help them with some of these really complex issues that keep coming up and make sure that they understand the processes that child protection will be running and how the court works.

The lawyer can only do so much.. The lawyer is assigned, the lawyer will meet with the person just before going into court. It will often be quite rushed.  Not all lawyers are rushed but they are very time pressured and they do need someone who can be available to them afterwards to help them think through what was said and make sure that they have understood what’s happening, and that they have communicated their wishes to the lawyer effectively.

It does mean that you are not doing short term advocacy.  It is time limited and we say to people that once your child protection issues have finished, we’ll close our case with you.

But it does mean that you need someone who has got a longer term view of the matter.  Not from a case manager perspective, we do remind everyone that we’re not case managers, we’re not support workers, but we are disability advocates and we will go through the process with someone as far as we can all the way through.  And that can be quite a long term commitment.

That sort of thing really does need funding.  It’s really not funded effectively or properly at the moment and that’s probably because the department really doesn’t have a lot of data on the number of parents that are actually effected.

So a good place to start is to say to parents, “Yes you are entitled to a disability advocate support person when you have child protection involvement”.  And that the government makes the funding available or organisations like Star, like VALID, and others, to provide the advocacy that those parents are going to need.

Thank you Denise.  And the last question…

Will there be a session such as this surrounding physical disabilities as well?  I suppose I would shape this as in the fact that the Charter covers mostly intellectual disabilities.  I suppose you could frame it as in physical disabilities wouldn’t  you?

The Charter is for anyone who has a disability, physical, intellectual, learning difficulty or whatever the disability is.  It’s not exclusive just child protection.  I’m happy to have another conversation at any stage.

Yep, great.

Well thank you everybody that’s all we have time for today.  There were several other questions that we will take note of and send to you offline.  If you could kindly answer them offline and we can put them with our resource page with this recording as well.

We’ve come to a close for our Advance Your Advocacy Practice session today.  I would like to thank Miranda, Susan, Frederick and Denise for their time and contribution to bring this session to all of us today. It’s such a critical topic.  It’s very clear from the conversation that we’re having today that it doesn’t stop here and it’s all about banding together as a sector to make this work for parents with disability and their children and the child protection system to make great outcomes for everybody.

So thank you very much.  There’ll be further work done so watch this space and stay engaged in future opportunities to have a say and shape this important piece of work.

Thank you to the Auslan interpreters and captioners, and also to Show Division for bringing this production to you today.  Have a wonderful week everybody, and I’ll see you next time.

Download the Charter (off-site)Maurice Feldman’s Step By Step Guide (off-site)Positive Powerful Parents website (off-site)
Child protection and relinquishment


Date published:
Wed 26th Apr, 2023