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Family violence report identifies children 'more likely to die young'

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The Queensland Family and Child Commission has called for a more coordinated approach to preventing and responding to abuse in relationships.

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In a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry, the commission has warned that children continue to be abused, traumatised and terrorised by domestic and family violence and were more likely overall to die at a young age.

“An analysis of data from the (Queensland) child death register shows the presence of domestic and family violence in children’s lives is recorded more frequently for certain causes of death,” the submission states.

“Of children who died of external causes (transport incidents, drowning, other non-intentional injury, suicide and fatal assault and neglect) between 2013 and 2019, 24.6 per cent were noted to have experienced domestic and family violence, either within their household or in their own intimate relationships.

“Looking specifically at those children who died of assault or neglect, domestic and family violence was noted in 57.7 per cent of cases. These findings indicate that domestic and family violence is more often present in the lives of children who die from fatal assault and neglect than for children who die of other external causes.”

The submission was released ahead of Wednesday’s six month anniversary of the deaths of Hannah Clarke and her children on a suburban Brisbane street, where their familial killer also died. Police have been preparing a report for the coroner.

The commission acknowledged the benefit in the inquiry acting as an audit of previous inquiries, reviews, reforms and recommendations, something that other groups have argued only delays much-needed change. It argued “particular consideration should be given” to a 2019 report from the Australian Law Reform Commission on the Family Court and the need for an integrated response to family law, child protection and family violence matters to better protect children.

While the Morrison Government has yet to respond to the 2019 report, the Queensland commission emphasised the benefit of having integrated and coordinated services at a local, state and national level.

“The importance of coordinated, multi-agency service delivery to support families experiencing violence cannot be overstated,” the commission argues, while noting more needed to be done to build the capability and capacity of the system.

“Barriers to effective collaborative work include large caseloads, service gaps, incomplete data, competing or overlapping services, power imbalances between larger and smaller agencies, gaps in screening and a lack of resources.

“Some of these barriers have been especially highlighted as the world responds to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and reported increased requests for assistance.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today said the state had “some of the strongest laws” in Australia and was constantly reviewing the situation.

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