Proctor : November 2018
11 PROCTOR | November 2018 Committee works for better children’s law by Pip Harvey Ross The Queensland Law Society Children’s Law Committee is comprised of 14 members and guests who identify issues and advocate for good law in all aspects of the Queensland justice system that affect children and young people. In particular, the committee focuses on legal and policy issues in the practice areas of youth justice and child protection. The committee’s advocacy is mainly through written submissions, stakeholder engagements and media campaigns. Recently the committee provided a significant contribution in relation to the ‘Expert Assistance Program’, participating in stakeholder group meetings and working on the expedient transition of 17-year-old young people out of adult prisons and back into the youth justice system. Following the long and successful advocacy campaign to reinstate 17-year-old offenders back into youth justice, the committee has turned its attention to the ‘Report on Youth Justice’ by Bob Atkinson, a Special Advisor to the Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Di Farmer MP. The report, released in June, addresses the progress of the Government’s youth justice reforms, and other measures to reduce recidivism. Significantly, the report recommended implementation of a four-pillar model as the Government’s youth justice policy. This focuses on early intervention, keeping children out of court and out of custody, and development of strategies to reduce reoffending. Following the release of the report, the committee was invited to participate in the development of the youth justice strategy by providing advice on implementing the report’s recommendations. The committee recently attended the first stakeholder engagement meeting on the development of the strategy and is looking forward to playing a continuing role in this important work, and ensuring that the report’s recommendations are implemented in an appropriate and timely manner, with continued stakeholder consultation. QLS and the committee are pleased that several concerns identified by the report mirror some of the issues raised by the Society in the QLS Call to Parties document for the last state election, including the implementation of standalone children’s courts and additional Childrens Court magistrates. In June 2018, members of the committee met with representatives from the Department of Justice and Attorney-General to discuss the Childrens Court Expert Assistance Pilot program, which was introduced following a recommendation contained in the Child Protection Commission of Inquiry report. The pilot is targeted at complex child protection matters for which the court considers that highly specific or specialised advice is required and allows the court to make an order appointing a person with relevant knowledge and skill to help the court. The committee welcomed the introduction of the pilot program and agreed that, if successful, it would assist in the awareness of section 107 of the Child Protection Act 1999, uptake on the inclusion of expert assistance that this section permits, and help to secure long-term funding for the operation of this section. The committee plays an important role in the education of practitioners during changes in the children’s law sector. In February, committee Chair Damian Bartholomew updated QLS members on the changes to the youth criminal justice system via an online livecast. Upcoming QLS professional development events will focus on the changes to child protection brought about by the Child Protection Reform Amendment Act 2017, which has commenced gradually throughout 2018, with the final provisions commencing last month. These provisions deal with self- care and connection, permanency, information sharing and transition to adulthood. The child protection legislation update held by QLS on 16 October provided in-depth learnings and discussion on these key changes and the practical experience implementing the changes to date. The Society thanks presenters Tracey De Simone, Catherine Moynihan and Kate Grant for sharing their insights on this important topic. QLS thanks the volunteer members of the Children’s Law Committee for their continued advocacy and commitment to promoting good law and policy in the children’s law arena in Queensland. Advocacy | News QLS will host a child protection masterclass on 6 December, which will provide detailed and practical information for members on case planning and permanency plans. The masterclass will be presented by Toby Davidson and Kate Grant, and chaired by Jennifer Glover. Registration for the masterclass is available at qls.com.au . QLS launches pilot cybersecurity program Queensland Law Society has launched a pilot version of an online cybersecurity improvement program. The program aims to help members strengthen their cyber-defences, improving protection for their firm and clients. The pilot program offers streams for sole practitioners and for small firms of between two and 30 network users. It began last month and will run for about 19 weeks, occupying about an hour a week. It aims to walk users through a sequence of tasks that will help them to develop tools to avoid potential cybersecurity issues. The development of this QLS initiative follows a number of email-based cyberattacks on Queensland law firms, including the hacking of practitioners’ email accounts in order to misdirect clients lodging monies into their trust accounts. QLS resources for this topic are available at qls.com.au/cybersecurity .