Empowering families through greater transparency, accountability and fairness in child protection proceedings: A 21st century approach to child protection litigation?

Child protection systems
Friday 27 July, 0950 – 1010


Nigel Miller
Director of Child Protection Litigation (Queensland)

Modern social work emphasises working collaboratively with children and families, to promote enduring safety and positive change for children who have experienced or are at a risk of suffering harm. Children’s families are primarily responsible for their protection and supporting families to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children is the cornerstone of contemporary social work practice, with statutory state intervention a last resort.

Recently, Queensland became the first jurisdiction in Australia to create professional separation between delivery of frontline child protection services and the decision as to whether to initiate court proceedings. Decisions with respect to applying for child protection orders are now made by an independent agency, the Director of Child Protection Litigation (DCPL). This model delivers greater consistency, transparency, fairness and accountability for families responding to litigation.

Removing the decision as to whether to invoke court proceedings from caseworkers, who may be emotionally invested, mitigates the “moral dilemma” frontline staff experience between supporting a family and taking protective action for a child. Further, the model safeguards against children being removed too readily, in the absence of supportive evidence, in circumstances where comprehensive assessments of children and their families have not been completed.

While state intervention interferes with basic human rights to a private and family life, DCPL’s independence ensures such intervention is the least intrusive measures necessary to protect children and support families: it promotes robust evidence-based decisions, and improves transparency for families.