Govt agencies to be investigated over death of six-year-old girl

Multiple state government agencies were “actively involved” for at least two years with the family now at the centre of a major criminal neglect inquiry into the death of a six-year-old girl named Charlie, with the government and police to hold separate inquiries into the case.

Jul 19, 2022, updated Jul 20, 2022
Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams at a press conference this morning. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams at a press conference this morning. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Deputy police commissioner Linda Williams provided an update a short time ago about SAPOL’s Task Force Prime, which is conducting a major crime investigation into the child’s death.

Charlie, whose first name was revealed today, was found unresponsive in her Munno Para home on the morning of Friday, July 15. 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,” Williams told reporters.

The police taskforce is also conducting a criminal neglect investigation into the treatment of five other siblings who were living at the same Munno Para housing trust property.

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

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

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,” Hildyard told reporters.

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

Child Protection Minister Katrine Hildyard at Tuesday’s press conference. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

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

Hildyard did 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 Premier Susan Close today announced the Department of Premier and Cabinet will also 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,
  • Effectiveness of interventions and government services,
  • Identification of any system improvements.
InDaily in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The police investigation will take precedence over the DPC inquiry, 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,” Close said.

South Australia’s child protection system is already subject to a wide-ranging review from 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.

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

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.”

Close said she expected continuous improvement to occur 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.”

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.