Probe after girl, 6, dies, siblings removed from home

Death of young girl spurs major investigations

Multiple state government agencies were “actively involved” for at least two years with the family at the centre of a major criminal neglect inquiry into the death of a six-year-old girl, South Australian authorities say.

SA Police Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams said SAPOL’s Task Force Prime had opened a major crime investigation into the death of the little girl.

Charlie, whose first name was revealed on Tuesday, was found unresponsive in her Munno Para home last Friday morning. She was transported to the Lyell McEwin Hospital but died shortly after.

“The interim post-mortem results indicate concerns about the state of Charlie’s health and wellbeing at the time of her death to such a point that we feel that it’s appropriate to investigate this matter to the highest level as soon as possible,” Deputy Commissioner Williams said.

The police taskforce is also conducting a criminal neglect investigation into the treatment of five other siblings living at the same housing trust property in Adelaide’s north.

charlie girl die sa

Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams confirmed several SA agencies had had contact with Charlie’s family. Photo: AAP

Those children, aged 8, 10, 13, 14 and 15, were safe in state care, authorities said.

Deputy Commissioner Williams said SAPOL would give Task Force Prime “maximum resources” to investigate the case.

SA Child Protection Minister Katrine Hildyard said the family had interactions with the Child Protection Department, Human Services, Education and Housing.

“The family were known to multiple government agencies, who were actively involved with them over the past couple of years,” Ms Hildyard said.

“All government agencies that had contact with this family will, of course, fully cooperate with the inquires that follow this tragedy.”

Deputy Commissioner Williams said SAPOL also had interactions with the family.

Ms Hildyard would not comment on when the family was last visited by authorities, citing sensitivities with the police investigation.

Along with the criminal investigation and coronial investigation undertaken by police, acting SA Premier Susan Close has announced the Department of Premier and Cabinet will conduct a cross-agency review into the government’s involvement with Charlie’s family.

The terms of reference for the DPC inquiry are:

  • Chronology of services delivered and agencies engaged
  • Roles, responsibilities and interactions of respective agencies
  • Effectives of interventions and government services
  • Identification of any system improvements

The police investigation will take precedence, Ms Close said.

She said multiple government agencies had interactions with the family for “some time”.

“That’s why it’s important that we make sure we catch up with all of those interactions when we do the proper review,” Ms Close said.

South Australia’s child protection system is already subject to a wide-ranging review by senior NSW bureaucrat Kate Alexander, who is scrutinising the state government’s progress implementing the recommendations of previous child protection inquests.

That review was launched in June after deputy coroner Anthony Schapel – in his report into the “preventable” deaths of five-year-old Korey Lee Mitchell and six-year-old sister Amber Rose Rigney – said some previous recommendations from coroners, the ombudsman and royal commissioner Margaret Nyland to improve the child protection system had been “ignored” by government.

Ms Alexander’s review is due to be handed down in October.

Ms Hildyard said she was “sure that the Alexander review will provide more guidance about potential changes to be made”.

“Child protection is incredibly complex and it is a system that has to do better,” she said.

“It is a system that since becoming minister I have committed myself to reviewing and improving.

“Particular steps have been taken to commence that work in the three and a half months I’ve been minister.”

Ms Close said she expected continuous improvement in the child protection system during the Malinauskas government’s term in office.

“The truth is that child protection is an incredibly challenging part of public policy,” she said.

“The reasons that we review something bad that’s happened is to make sure that we’ve learned everything we can to improve for other children.

“There won’t be a time in child protection where there aren’t challenges, but there can be an expectation of continuous improvement.”

  • This story was first published in InDaily and is republished with permission.
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