In the April 2011 amendments to the Act, the Commissioner was furnished with an ‘own motion’ capacity. He/she may now investigate, resolve, and report on a ‘matter that might form the grounds of a complaint’ regardless of whether a specific complaint has been lodged.
The Northern Territory Government’s formal response to the ‘Inquiry into the Protection of Sexual Abuse of Aboriginal Children’ (Little Children are Sacred Report) is largely outlined in ‘Closing the Gap of Indigenous Disadvantage – A Generational Response’, an initiative announced in July 2007.
This initiative is aimed at overcoming the disadvantages experienced by Indigenous Territorians and improving their quality of life over the next 5, 10 and 20 years.
The Children’s Commissioner is tasked with monitoring the administration of the Care and Protection of Children Act 2007 (the Act), as it pertains to ‘vulnerable children’. The relevant provisions are in Chapter 2 of the Act. The Department of Families and Children has responsibility for the administration of Chapter 2.
Although the Act was passed by the NT Legislative Assembly in November 2007, it is being progressively ‘commenced’ as the relevant regulations and policies to accompany each section are completed. The key provisions relating to the protection and care of children were commenced in December 2008. Significant amendments relating to the functions of the Children’s Commissioner were commenced on 1 July 2011.
The Children’s Commissioner has been appointed as Convenor of the NT Child Death Review and Prevention Committee and the Commissioner’s office is providing secretariat support. The Committee has been established pursuant to Chapter 3, Part 3.3 Prevention of Child Deaths, of the Act, which commenced in May 2008.
The object of the Committee is to assist in the prevention and reduction of child deaths through the maintaining of a database on child deaths and conducting research into child deaths, diseases and accidents. The Committee is comprised of 10-16 members with expertise in relevant areas. The Committee will contribute to policy development that aims to prevent and reduce deaths, diseases and accidents.
In 2010 a Board was appointed to inquire into and make recommendations about the child protection system in the NT. The Board of Inquiry report Growing Them Strong, Together was handed to the Minister for Child Protection in October 2010 and contained 147 recommendations. The April 2011 amendments to the Act which commenced on 1 July 2011 give the Children’s Commissioner the capacity to receive submissions about the recommendations of the Inquiry and specify how such submissions are to be managed. In addition to passing on copies of the submissions to the Minister, the Commissioner may investigate matters where appropriate and advise or make recommendations to the Minister as appropriate.