Stats re­veal 41 child deaths

Pilbara News - - News - Tim Clarke

Deaths among WA’s most vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren have reached their high­est level in more than a decade.

Sta­tis­tics from the Om­buds­man, who in­ves­ti­gates deaths of chil­dren known to child pro­tec­tion agen­cies, re­veal 41 of those chil­dren died in 2015-2016.

There has not been a worse year for such cases since the Om­buds­man be­gan re­view­ing child deaths in 2009 and it equals the 41 in­ves­ti­ga­ble deaths re­ported in 2011-12.

It is the high­est num­ber of deaths since 2003-04.

As The West Aus­tralian con­tin­ues to high­light the plight of the chil­dren of WA’s most trou­bled families, the Om­buds­man’s sta­tis­tics are an­other in­di­ca­tion of the tragic out­come for some of the State’s most dis­ad­van­taged.

An “in­ves­ti­ga­ble death” is trig­gered for the Om­buds­man if, in the two years be­fore the death, the chief executive of the Department for Child Pro­tec­tion and Fam­ily Sup­port has re­ceived in­for­ma­tion that raises con­cerns about the well­be­ing of the child, or a child rel­a­tive of that child. Since 2009, 232 deaths have been deemed in­ves­ti­ga­ble.

De­spite mak­ing up just 6 per cent of the to­tal WA pop­u­la­tion aged un­der 18, Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren made up 56 per cent of the deaths.

Most lived in re­gional and re­mote lo­ca­tions and of all the deaths of Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren no­ti­fied to the Om­buds­man, more than one in five was a sui­cide.

A par­lia­men­tary re­port tabled last week by Lib­eral MP Gra­ham Ja­cobs found de­spite nu­mer­ous re­ports over nearly two decades, lit­tle had been done to halt the ris­ing rate of Abo­rig­i­nal youth sui­cide.

“The sui­cide rates of Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in cer­tain ar­eas of WA are among the high­est of any­where in the world,” Dr Ja­cobs said.

In a re­cent speech, WA Chief Jus­tice Wayne Martin ques­tioned the Om­buds­man hav­ing the in­ves­tiga­tive re­spon­si­bil­i­ties rather than the State Coro­ner.

“It might be asked what pur­pose is served by this divi­sion of pow­ers and re­sources,” he said. If you or some­one you know is think­ing of sui­cide, phone Life­line on 13 11 14.

A Par­lia­men­tary re­port was tabled re­cently by Lib­eral MP Gra­ham Ja­cobs.

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