29.47 In the child protection context, a number of the states and territories have established inter-agency models to deliver coordinated services to children and young people who have been abused, or who are at risk of abuse. Each state and territory has developed specific investigative models based on its own child protection legislation and discrete definitions of abuse and neglect. These deal with the way in which abuse of children and young people is reported, referrals to other agencies, information exchange between agencies, the conduct of investigations and interviews, and how services are delivered. While some of these processes are legislatively based, practical guidance is often provided through a variety of protocols, inter-agency guidelines and memorandums of understanding (MOUs).
29.48 In addition, the Family Court of Australia has developed a case management model, the Magellan project—which is discussed further below—to address the needs of children and families where serious allegations of sexual or physical abuse are raised during parenting disputes in the Family Court.
29.49 In several jurisdictions—including South Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory—reports of child abuse are directed to a centralised intake service or hotline. In Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, reports are directed to the district child protection department office closest to the child’s location, from which they are then referred to the police and/or an inter-agency team.
29.50 In Victoria, reports can either be made to the child protection agency or the community-based Child and Family Information Referral Support Teams (Child FIRST). Where the initial assessment reveals safety concerns for the child, the matter is referred to the child protection agency. Where the concerns are more about a child’s wellbeing, the matter will be referred to Child FIRST (or another community service organisation). A similar community-based intake model has recently been adopted in Tasmania.
29.51 In NSW, mandatory reporters who work in one of the six government agencies where there is a Child Wellbeing Unit (CWU) may make a report to their CWU. With the assistance of the specially trained staff at the CWU, the reporter will apply the Mandatory Reporters Guidance assessment tool to determine whether their concerns for the safety of the child meet the legislative threshold for intervention. Where the tool indicates that there is a ‘risk of significant harm’, the CWU will make a report to the Child Protection Helpline. If, on the other hand, the tool indicates that the matter does not satisfy the threshold, and the CWU does not have concerns about accumulated harm, CWU staff and the reporter will work together to determine where best to refer the child and the family for appropriate support and assistance.
Initial assessment and referral to police
29.52 The systems in place for initial assessment of a report and its referral to the police and/or the inter-agency team differ in each state and territory. In a number of jurisdictions, there is a positive obligation on the child protection agency to refer a report immediately to the police where the report contains allegations of harm that may involve a criminal offence.
29.53 Generally, the initial assessment involves obtaining more detailed information about the child who is the subject of the report, and making an assessment of the degree of harm that the child has suffered, or the degree of risk of harm, to determine whether the report satisfies the reporting threshold. The criteria for referring cases to the police vary between jurisdictions, and sometimes even within jurisdictions. A criticism of some child protection systems has been that there is inconsistency in the assessment of reports between district offices or different entry points. For example, in a review of the Victorian child protection service, the Victorian Ombudsman stated:
Evidence obtained during my investigation shows that the degree of tolerance of risk to children, referred to as the ‘threshold’, varies across the state according to the local office’s ability to respond. I located many examples of cases where I consider that the risk of harm to children was unacceptable and the department had not intervened.
29.54 To address this issue, a number of jurisdictions have developed and implemented diagnostic assessment tools to ensure that assessments are performed accurately and consistently across the various entry points.
Police response to reports
29.55 The police must investigate allegations of abuse or neglect when there is a reason to believe that a criminal offence may have been committed. Invariably this involves interviewing the child or young person. The child or young person must also usually submit to an interview by community services caseworkers to assess whether there are legislative grounds for making an application to the court for a care and protection order, and to determine what family, social support and medical services should be provided.
29.56 Across the states and territories, there are different models of police responses to reports of child abuse and neglect. Essentially these can be divided into three types:
inter-agency teams, involving police and other agencies;
joint investigations between police and other agencies; and
specialised police units.
29.57 Five states and territories have inter-agency teams, as follows:
New South Wales—Joint Investigation Response Team (JIRT);
Queensland—Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN);
Western Australia—ChildFirst Assessment and Interview Team (CAIT);
Northern Territory—Child Abuse Taskforce (CAT); and
Victoria—Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT).
29.58 All inter-agency teams include, as core members, the child protection agency and the police in each state and territory, but some jurisdictions also include other agencies or persons. For example:
JIRT includes the health department as a core team member (although it is not co-located with the others);
SCAN includes the health and education departments as core team members, as well as Indigenous representatives and other agencies as required;
CAIT has included the health and justice departments in training programs;
CAT includes Indigenous representatives and other agencies as required;
SOCIT includes sexual assault counsellors as core team members, and forensic medical officers as required.
29.59 Inter-agency teams have the potential to increase the types of services and support that victims receive in addition to child protection and police assistance; and to allow access to greater information and resources by the child protection agency and the police.
29.60 Some inter-agency teams, such as SCAN in Queensland, have a legislative basis. Part 3 of the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) sets out the membership and responsibilities of the core members of SCAN and states that its purpose is to enable a coordinated response to the protection needs of children, by facilitating:
information sharing between members;
planning and coordination of actions; and
responding in a holistic and culturally responsive way to children’s protection needs.
29.61 The JIRT program in NSW is policy-based. It provides services exclusively to children and young people aged under 18 years. The roles and responsibilities of each of the agency members are outlined in an MOU between them, which provides:
The role of the NSW Police is to detect and investigate alleged child abuse and neglect. Where appropriate they are to initiate legal proceedings against identified offenders.
The role of [Community Services] is to receive and assess reports of risk of harm to children and young people. [Community Services] also ensure the safety of children and their ongoing care. Where appropriate they initiate Children’s Court proceedings.
The role of Health is to identify and report risk of harm to children and young people. They provide treatment, crisis and ongoing counselling as well as medical examinations.
29.62 Caseworkers with the NSW child protection agency and police officers, who are specially trained in interviewing child victims, are jointly responsible for investigating allegations of abuse to determine whether a care and protection order is warranted and whether a criminal offence may have been committed.
29.63 A joint response from the three agencies means that a victim is interviewed once and the information is shared among the agencies so that appropriate services are provided to the child or young person and their family members. Not having to repeat his or her story to officers from different agencies significantly reduces trauma and distress to the abuse victim.
29.64 Queensland and Victoria on occasions also organise joint investigations, sometimes between the child protection agency and the police or, in Victoria, between the child protection agency and the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse units.
Submissions and consultations
29.65 In the course of the Inquiry, a number of issues were raised in relation to the operation of inter-agency teams, for example, that the police may not always be aware of the impact of their actions in collecting evidence of abuse when matters of family violence or child abuse are raised in family law proceedings. In the Consultation Paper, the Commissions asked whether the existing inter-agency arrangements were effective in practice to ensure that victims are better protected, and that professionals in each part of the system understand the consequences of their actions for other parts of the system.
29.66 A number of stakeholders suggested that parties to inter-agency arrangements, including the police, should receive ongoing training to ensure that each party clearly understands the impact of their actions for other parts of the system, and to ensure that inter-agency teams work effectively. One stakeholder noted that high staff turnover was a problem and that inter-agency arrangements could not rely on particular individuals to make them work. Legal Aid NSW commented that such arrangements have assisted professionals in different parts of the system to a limited extent to understand each others’ work and its consequences, but noted that there was scope for an improved level of cooperation.
29.67 The Queensland Government’s view was that effective relationships between agencies are best achieved by fostering local agency connections supported by a centrally led agenda.
29.68 In Chapter 30, the Commissions express the view that information-sharing protocols and MOUs are important, but cannot stand alone, and are dependent on the knowledge and involvement of officers and staff. Simply putting protocols in place is not sufficient. In the same way, integrated response arrangements are not simply formal arrangements between agencies. They must be given an ongoing profile among court and agency officers; they must form the basis of an ongoing and responsive relationship between the parties and must be supported and implemented in practice. Therefore, the Commissions recommend, below, that integrated responses include a set of common policies and objectives; mechanisms for inter-agency collaboration—including information-sharing protocols, regular inter-agency meetings and liaison officers—and provision for victim support. Chapter 31 acknowledges the importance of ongoing training and education programs.
The Magellan project
29.69 The Magellan project involves special management of cases where serious allegations of sexual or physical abuse of children are raised during parenting disputes in the Family Court of Australia. Once a case is identified as suitable for the Magellan pathway, it is dealt with by a small, designated team of judges, registrars and family consultants. The Magellan project relies on a collaborative and coordinated set of processes and procedures, with significant resources directed to each case in the early stages. A crucial aspect is strong inter-agency coordination, in particular with state and territory child protection agencies, which helps to ensure that problems are dealt with efficiently and that information sharing is of high quality. An independent children’s lawyer is appointed to every Magellan case. Formal protocols for information sharing between child protection agencies and federal family courts apply.
29.70 A pilot program of 100 cases was conducted in Victoria from June 1998 to December 2000, after which the project was rolled out by the Family Court in all states and territories, except Western Australia.
29.71 The Magellan approach commences when a Form 4 is filed with an application for parenting orders. The application is referred to the Family Court Magellan Registrar to be considered for inclusion in the Magellan list. If the court is made aware of allegations of sexual or physical abuse that it deems ‘serious’, it can request the intervention of the relevant child protection agency as a party under s 91B of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). The state or territory agency then assesses the allegations of abuse and reports its findings to the Family Court. This report (the Magellan Report) is the key mechanism for sharing information and includes information about the history of abuse in the family, any previous notifications, and subsequent action by the child protection agency. It is a significant factor in encouraging parties to settle matters, as such reports often either support or contradict a party’s assertion of abuse. In non-Magellan cases, the child protection agency does not make a report, and merely proffers information it has in respect of the child.
29.72 A team of Magellan judges, registrars and family consultants at each family law registry manages the cases. Generally, the aim is to complete Magellan cases within six months from the case being listed. Early steps in a Magellan case include:
making appropriate interim orders to protect the child until the matter comes on for trial;
ordering a Magellan report from the respective state or territory child protection agency including whether it intends to intervene in the Family Court proceedings, whether it has previously investigated these or other allegations, the conclusion and the reasons for the conclusion of the investigation, and any recommendations or other relevant information;
ordering a subpoena of the child protection agency file;
ordering the appointment of an independent children’s lawyer; and
ordering a detailed family report, where appropriate, analysing the family dynamics and the needs of the children.
Reviews of the Magellan project
29.73 The Magellan project was reviewed in 2001 and 2007. Both reviews noted the information-sharing and cooperative arrangements between government agencies and the courts significantly reduced friction between the child protection and family law systems.
29.74 The 2001 review found that:
the child protection services and family court interface was much improved—the time taken by the child protection service to submit a report fell from an average of 42 days to 32 days, meaning that the reports were undertaken well within the time frame set up for their completion;
the substantiation rate by child protection staff rose from 23% to 48%;
disputes were resolved far more quickly, with the average time being taken falling from 17.5 months to 8.7 months;
the average number of court events fell from an average of five to three events;
far fewer cases proceeded to a judicial determination—only 13% proceeded this far, compared with 30% previously;
court orders broke down less frequently—previously some 37% of final orders broke down, while 5% broke down in the new program;
the amount Victoria Legal Aid spent on all parties per case averaged over all cases in the pilot program was $13,770 per case—well under the cap allowed for legal aid expenditure on family law cases and compared to the $19,867 in the non-Magellan comparison group of cases;
the proportion of highly distressed children fell from 28% to 4%; and
the parental and legal practitioner levels of satisfaction were high.
29.75 The 2007 review—conducted by Dr Daryl Higgins—also concluded that the Magellan project encourages a greater involvement of child protection agencies in the family law system. In particular:
Magellan cases were investigated by child protection agencies in 80% of cases, compared to 26.3% of non-Magellan cases; and
the child protection agency planned to give evidence at trial in 22.5% of cases, compared to 1.3% of non-Magellan cases.
29.76 Both reviews indicate that the interactions of the family law and child protection systems have improved as a result of the project and its method of intensive and coordinated case management of child abuse cases.
29.77 Higgins found that child protection agency compliance with subpoenas in Magellan cases was generally high, and that this was a result of the funded role of independent children’s lawyers in:
gathering information about the proceedings and facilitated discussions between parents where appropriate;
procuring funding for family reports in cases where the Family Court’s internal family consultants were not used;
approaching relevant experts to give evidence in proceedings, ascertaining their availability to give evidence and providing them with documentation relating to the matter; and
liaising between the parties to ensure that experts selected were not opposed.
Federal Magistrates Court
29.78 The Federal Magistrates Court (FMC) has no current involvement with the Magellan project. The FMC has adopted provisions for the transfer of more complex matters that are filed in the FMC to the Family Court. This includes matters identified for the Magellan list. The court has adopted a benchmark of two days for hearing a family law matter itself or transferring the proceedings to the Family Court. With the implementation of a common registry for the Family Court of Australia and the FMC, the transfer of matters between the courts appears to have become less of an issue for complex child abuse cases which are part of the Magellan project.
Submissions and consultations
29.79 In the Consultation Paper, the Commissions asked whether the gap between the family law and child protection systems could be resolved by collaborative arrangements, such as the Magellan project, and whether the principles of the Magellan project could be applied in the FMC.
29.80 There was some support for extending the principles of the Magellan project to the FMC, although the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department noted that any such extension would have resource implications. Legal Aid NSW was of the view that the Magellan principles could be applied in the FMC, including the appointment of a nominated judicial officer and registrar to case manage matters, the determination of interim and final applications in a more reasonable time frame, and the development of protocols between the courts and agencies. The submission expressed the view, however, that a Magellan report—summarising the child protection agency file—was insufficient and that child protection agencies should be more closely involved in the management of Magellan cases.
29.81 The Chief Justice of the Family Court and the Chief Federal Magistrate stated, however:
As the Family Court deals with the most complex disputes, it is appropriate for Magellan and ‘Magellan-type’ cases … to be dealt with by the Family Court. There are doubts about the effectiveness of Magellan type principles in a high volume court like the FMC.
29.82 The Queensland Law Society was of the view that, given the resource implications for the FMC, Magellan matters should remain with the Family Court. The Law Society of NSW suggested that the proposed integration of the two courts may eliminate this issue. In the interim, protocols between the two courts should ensure that cases involving serious abuse are transferred to the Family Court Magellan list. One stakeholder expressed the view that it was important to clarify when cases should be transferred from the FMC to the Family Court.
29.83 The Commissions note the positive outcomes associated with the Magellan project reflected in the two reviews discussed above. While there was some support for extending the principles of the Magellan project to the FMC, the majority of stakeholders were of the view that Magellan matters—where serious allegations of sexual or physical abuse of children are raised during parenting disputes—should be referred to and dealt with by the Family Court of Australia, applying the full range of Magellan project initiatives. In particular, the Commissions note the views of the Chief Justice of the Family Court and the Chief Federal Magistrate that the Magellan principles might not be effective in a high volume court like the FMC. The Commissions are not, therefore, recommending that the full range of Magellan project principles be formally applied in the FMC.
29.84 On the other hand, collaborative relationships between courts and agencies involved in family law and child protection matters are important to ensure that child abuse is identified and responded to in an appropriate way. This applies in the FMC, as well as in the Family Court. In Chapter 30, the Commissions note that the FMC has protocols in place with child protection agencies in a number of jurisdictions—NSW and Queensland. These arrangements are intended to facilitate cooperation and sharing of information to ensure that the protective needs of children are met. In that chapter, the Commissions recommend that the federal family courts, including the FMC, and child protection agencies develop protocols to provide a framework for the exchange of information in those jurisdictions that do not yet have such arrangements in place. The Commissions also recommend that parties to such protocols should receive ongoing training to ensure that the arrangements are effectively implemented.
29.85 The Commissions note, in addition, the arrangements for the transfer of more complex matters, including Magellan matters, that are filed in the FMC to the Family Court of Australia and that the court has adopted a benchmark of two days for hearing a family law matter itself or transferring the proceedings to the Family Court. In the Commissions’ view, these arrangements and the benchmarked timeframe for transfer to the Family Court are appropriate.
 The Magellan project was initiated by Nicholson CJ of the Family Court and Dessau J: D Higgins, Cooperation and Coordination: An Evaluation of the Family Court of Australia’s Magellan Case-Management Model (2007), prepared for the Family Court of Australia, 14.
 See, eg, Department for Families and Communities (SA), Reporting Child Abuse (2010) <www.dfc.sa.gov.au/pub/default.aspx?tabid=485> at 12 April 2010; Department of Health and Human Services (Tas), Making a Notification to the Child Protection Intake (2010) <www.dhhs.
tas.gov.au/service_information> at 12 April 2010 although in Tasmania, reports may also be made to community based Gateway Services.
 See, eg, Department of Communities (Qld), Reporting Child Abuse (2010) <www.childsafety.qld.gov.au
/child-abuse/report/index.html> at 12 April 2010.
 Department of Human Services, Children, Youth and Families (Vic), Reporting Concerns about Children or Young People: A Guide for Professionals (2007) <www.cyf.vic.gov.au> at 12 April 2010.
Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997 (Tas) pt 5B, as amended by Children, Young Persons and Their Families Amendment Act 2009 (Tas).
 These have been created within NSW Health (Area Health Services and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead), NSW Police, the Department of Education and Training, the Department of Housing, the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care and the Department of Juvenile Justice.
 See, eg, Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) s 14(2).
 Ombudsman Victoria, Own Motion Investigation into the Department of Human Services Child Protection Program (2009), .
 See, eg, NSW Health, NSW Police, Department of Community Services (NSW), NSW Joint Investigative Response Team (JIRT) Review, unpublished (2006), [7.2].
Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) s 159J.
 The original MOU was signed in 1997 and was revised in August 2006 following an inter-agency review of JIRT in 2006: see NSW Health, NSW Police, Department of Community Services (NSW), NSW Joint Investigative Response Team (JIRT) Review, unpublished (2006).
 Confidential, Submission FV 184, 25 June 2010; C Humphreys, Submission FV 131, 21 June 2010; Education Centre Against Violence, Submission FV 90, 3 June 2010; Commissioner for Children (Tas), Submission FV 62, 1 June 2010.
 F Hardy, Submission FV 126, 16 June 2010.
 Legal Aid NSW, Submission FV 219, 1 July 2010.
 Queensland Government, Submission FV 229, 14 July 2010.
 The project was initiated by Nicholson CJ of the Family Court and Dessau J: D Higgins, Cooperation and Coordination: An Evaluation of the Family Court of Australia’s Magellan Case-Management Model (2007), prepared for the Family Court of Australia, 14.
 Ibid, 21.
 T Brown, R Sheehan, M Frederico and L Hewitt, Resolving Family Violence to Children: An Evaluation of Project Magellan (2001).
 Family Court of Australia, Form 4—Notice of Child Abuse or Family Violence <www.familylawcourts
.gov.au> at 9 February 2010.
 Family Court of Australia, Fact Sheet: Magellan Program <www.familycourt.gov.au> at 17 October 2009.
 D Higgins, Cooperation and Coordination: An Evaluation of the Family Court of Australia’s Magellan Case-Management Model (2007), prepared for the Family Court of Australia, 83.
 Ibid, 146.
 T Brown et al, Resolving Family Violence to Children: An Evaluation of Project Magellan (2001), 132.
 D Higgins, Cooperation and Coordination: An Evaluation of the Family Court of Australia’s Magellan Case-Management Model (2007), prepared for the Family Court of Australia, 12.
 Ibid, 70 (table 5.10) and 214 (table 8.3).
 Ibid, 78, 107.
 Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Family Violence: Improving Legal Frameworks, ALRC Consultation Paper 1, NSWLRC Consultation Paper 9 (2010), Questions 14–15, 14–16 and 14–17.
 Magistrates’ Court and the Children’s Court of Victoria, Submission FV 220, 1 July 2010; Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre Inc, Submission FV 212, 28 June 2010.
 Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department, Submission FV 166, 25 June 2010.
 Legal Aid NSW, Submission FV 219, 1 July 2010.
 D Bryant, Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and J Pascoe, Chief Federal Magistrate of the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia, Submission FV 168, 25 June 2010.
 Queensland Law Society, Submission FV 178, 25 June 2010.
 R McClelland (Attorney-General), ‘Rudd Government to Reform Federal Courts’ (Press Release, 5 May 2009).
 Law Society of New South Wales, Submission FV 205, 30 June 2010.
 Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria, Submission FV 173, 25 June 2010.
 Family Court of Australia, Protocol between the Department of Child Safety Queensland, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia (2007), 1.1.
 Rec 30–17.