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Stronger protections needed for Indigenous children known to the system

Forty-two per cent of deaths in children known to the child protection system identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, according to information released by the Queensland Child Death Review Board (CDRB).

CDRB Chairperson Cheryl Vardon said the board reviewed the deaths of 55 children known to the child protection system in its first year.

“Sadly, the leading causes of death among these children were fatal assault and neglect, and natural causes,” Ms Vardon said.

“Children also died as a result of transport incidents, sudden unexpected deaths in infants, by suicide, by drowning, or as a result of non-intentional injury.”

Ms Vardon said she was deeply concerned with the number of children who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

“Of the deaths reviewed by the board, 23 children—more than 40 per cent—identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, as did half of the children who died by suicide,” Ms Vardon said.

“Research presented to the board highlighted the impact of trauma and adverse childhood experiences on children, most notably, the disturbingly high rate of mental health issues and drug and alcohol presentations, self-harm and exposure to suicides among Indigenous children.

“This strongly indicates that more must be done to improve the livelihoods of Indigenous children, improve their mental health, and prevent deaths of children known to the system.

“Significant changes are needed to the structures and systems that are designed to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, including greater investment in prevention and early intervention programs designed for Indigenous children by their communities.”

Ms Vardon said the board was responsible for reviewing the circumstances around the deaths of children known to the child protection system.

“The death of every child is tragic, regardless of circumstances,” Ms Vardon said.

“CDRB is an independent body established to identify opportunities to improve the system, inform recommendations to keep children safe, and prevent deaths that may be avoidable,” Ms Vardon said.

The board will deliver its first annual report on 31 October 2021. It is anticipated the report will make recommendations for government about changes needed to improve the child protection system.


The board was established in July 2020.

An agency has six months after a child has died to prepare a review and provide to the board. The board reviews the death within approximately six months of receiving the agency report.

ENDS 11 August 2021

MEDIA CONTACT: Child Death Review Board – Kirstine O’Donnell, Principal Advisor (Advocacy and Media)

ph: 0404 971 164