Hildyard recently told reporters that her “heart and love” went out to the family of Korey Lee Mitchell, five, and his six-year-old sister Amber Rose Rigney, who were murdered in 2016 by their mother’s partner in what Deputy State Coroner Anthony Schapel described. the deaths as ‘preventable’.
In findings handed over yesterday, Schapel said child protection officials should have at the very least conducted an investigation into the children’s treatment, following a number of reports raising concerns about their care.
He made several recommendations, which Hildyard said would be accepted and implemented by the Malinauskas government.
“Reading this report last night was really, really harrowing and again, my thoughts are with the family,” she said.
“Myself, the Prime Minister and Cathy Taylor – the chief executive of the Department for Child Protection – met early this morning and at that meeting we were determined to accept and implement all the recommendations made by the Deputy Coroner in his report. ”
Hildyard said the government would “urgently” appoint an independent reviewer to review the corona and other recommendations related to child protection in South Australia.
She said the government would decide who to appoint this afternoon and over the weekend.
“It was terrible to think about the failures of child protection over several years,” she said.
“We want this review to be quick, but thorough.
“We expect the process of reviewing and then receiving each report and starting a plan for any change implementation to be all this year.”
Hildyard did not immediately answer repeated questions about whether she would fire department heads, including Taylor, in light of Schapel’s findings.
“I will work on reviewing systems, reviewing policies and procedures, reviewing staffing levels to make sure they are as effective as possible in making the change needed,” she said.
“What I’ve said is that I’m focused on change — on positive change.”
The Child Protection Minister said she would work with the department to address the staff shortages “as soon as possible”, but could not confirm how many additional staff would be recruited.
“We can certainly talk to you about that in the coming weeks,” she said.
“We first want to determine exactly where staff are most needed to ensure children already in care are safe and supported to thrive physically, emotionally and mentally.”
In his findings Schapel said child protection authorities have not investigated Mitchell and Rigney’s treatment.
At the opening of the inquest last year, counsel assisting Ahura Kalali said that before the murders, another child of Wilson-Rigney had been removed from her care after it was deemed to be in a situation of grave danger.
Kalali outlined a long history of reports of abuse, care and neglect to authorities regarding the care of all three children.
There were also concerns about the children’s development, their sporadic attendance at school and their mother’s drug use.
The inquest found that Families SA struggled to continue to intervene in the family’s case due to a lack of resources.
But Taylor told reporters this morning that systems in the department had changed since the children’s deaths.
“When the coroner looked at this matter, it was covered by the old law (safety of children and young people) and under the new law we now have a lot more at our disposal,” she said.
“Our employees are working harder than ever to investigate cases, respond to more cases, but more importantly, connect families,” she said.
“We’ve been investigating more cases in the past five years than ever before and we’re making sure we don’t leave children in unsafe environments.”
– with AAP
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