Who is monitoring the implementation of the recommendations of the Mullighan Inquiry?

The Government’s fifth and final report on the implementation of the Children on the APY Lands (Mullighan) Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations was tabled in Parliament in November 2013. This report states that:

As this is the Government’s final annual progress report to Parliament, the taskforce will now cease. The taskforce has identified the APY Lands Steering Committee as an appropriate forum for the maintenance of strong interagency collaboration to guide initiatives relating to the safety of children on the APY Lands… The APY Lands Steering Committee will have a lead role in service planning and coordination in partnership with Anangu under the APY Lands Regional Partnership Agreement. The Regional Partnership Agreement between the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Executive, the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of South Australia seeks to align the efforts of community, regional Anangu organisations and governments towards meeting agreed priorities (page 10).’

On 12th December 2014, the Paper Tracker wrote to the former Minister for Education and Child Development, the Hon. Jennifer Rankine, regarding the ongoing monitoring of the implementation of the Inquiry’s recommendations and whether the APY Lands Steering Committee had met and had discussed the issue of child safety. The Minister was also asked whether child safety was included as a schedule to the APY Regional Partnership Agreement, as indicated in the Government’s final report in response to the Mullighan Inquiry.1

On 12th March 2015, the Chief Executive of the Department for Education and Child Development responded to the Paper Tracker’s letter, indicating that the APY Lands Steering Committee had ‘met twice during 2014 and child safety did not form part of the agenda for these meetings. In addition, at this point in time, it has not been identified for development as a schedule under the APY Lands Regional Partnership Agreement’.2

In the absence of child protection issues being addressed through either the APY Regional Partnership Agreement or the APY Lands Steering Committee, there does not seem to be an alternative mechanism in place to monitor and ensure that the implementation of the recommendations of the Inquiry will continue to be monitored and sustained.

Arising from the Commission of Inquiry, APY Child Protection Protocols were developed. These protocols have been operational since 2011 and provide a ‘framework’ for the way government agencies and non-government organisations respond to child protection notifications. A Review of these protocols was commenced in October 2013 and a report was due in mid-2014. To date, after numerous requests from the Paper Tracker, an update on the progress with this Review has still not been provided.

The Government’s final report also indicates that two recommendations, namely, Recommendation 31 (regarding the management and coordination of meetings with Aṉangu men and boys regarding sexual conduct) and Recommendation 36 (regarding the establishment of night patrols) are listed as ‘continuing’. The responsibility to report has expired and there are still two outstanding recommendations, but it is unclear as to who will be providing an update on these ‘continuing’ recommendations and who will be monitoring this reporting.

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[1] Correspondence from Rev. Peter McDonald, Uniting Communities, to Minister Jennifer Rankine, Minister for Education and Child Development, dated 12 December 2014

[1] Correspondence from Tony Harrison, Chief Executive, Department for Education and Child Development, to Rev. Peter McDonald, Uniting Communities, dated 12 March 2015.

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