Sunday, May 04, 2014

Bowden family’s foster daughter taken by Families SA with just an hour’s notice

Social worker evil again

A PROMINENT Adelaide family had their foster child of seven years ripped from their home with only an hour’s notice just weeks before Chloe Valentine died.

The family and child advocates say it is “sickening” the government department responsible for protecting children put resources into taking this child away from a loving and caring home while leaving another in a toxic environment that led to her death.

Graeme and Jacqueline Bowden, known for their family business Keith Bowden Electrical which Graeme took over from his late father, opened their eastern suburbs home to a 10-month-old baby girl in 2003 whom they love and adore.

She was older sister to their daughter Maya-Rose, 7, sent to a prestigious Adelaide private school and provided one-on-one tutoring to support her learning.

But on December 12, 2011, the Bowdens received a call to meet with Families SA over concerns about their parenting.

At that meeting they were told the 7½-year-old, who they regarded as their daughter, was going to be removed from their home at 5.30pm — it was 4.30pm.

“It was like they were telling us she died. I just felt ill because I though ‘how will she get to sleep because each night I stroke her hair until she falls asleep,” Mrs Bowden said, breaking down in tears.

“It was 5.35pm when they took her. When she was on the front lawn she said ‘see you tomorrow mum’ that just broke my heart because she didn’t understand what was happening.”

The Bowdens were told the child was being removed because the family could not “provide for her future emotional needs”.

The swift action by the department was in stark contrast to the case of four-year-old Chloe who died in January 2012, after she repeatedly tumbled off a 50kg motorbike while under family supervision.

Families SA had received 22 notifications about Chloe before she died, while families and friends had pleaded with authorities to remove her from her mother.

Since the Bowden’s foster child was taken away they have had about 20 supervised visits with her but it’s now been 132 days since they last saw her. Since leaving the Bowdens’ home, the child has been moved through a series of carers.

Mrs Bowden said despite having their case reviewed she said they were never able to see all the documentation of the claims against them and felt the case was constantly being stacked against them.

Child protection expert Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs said the department’s priorities were all wrong — leaving children in bad homes with their biological families but quickly moving them from foster home to foster home.

“Children are left in bad homes (with biological mothers and fathers) for too long. The department calls it ‘good enough parenting’,” Prof Briggs said.

“I was at a meeting they (the Bowdens) were told by Families SA the reason the child was removed was because they couldn’t provide for her future emotional needs. I asked them ‘what are the future emotional needs?’

“You cannot predict future emotional needs.

“Unless it was that Families SA think ‘you’re a middle class family giving the child unrealistic expectations’. There is an anti-middle class element there.”

Prof Briggs explained there was little the family could do to appeal the decision.

“The department can make decisions and they cannot be challenged,” she said.  “They keep files on foster carers, recording complaints and issues that do not have to be proven, that the family can’t see and has no way of disputing.

“The Bowdens are the sort of people who obeyed the rules, informing the department of any incidents they needed and asked for support.  “But as most foster carers will tell you, ‘keep Families SA out of it’.”

This case was one that led Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire to push for another inquiry.

“It’s not only the Bowdens. I’m inundated with complaints about Families SA and how they manage their responsibilities across the spectrum of children, parents and foster parents,” he said.


NCOA Attempts to Re-define Schooling Responsibility

The National Commission of Audit (NCOA) recommendation to hand total responsibility for all school funding management to state and territory governments would be a retrograde step, according to Independent Schools Council of Australia Executive Director, Mr Bill Daniels.

"Independent school funding is a complex mix of responsibilities between the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and parents and having a range of funding models individually decided by states and territories would be a challenge to the independent school sector. This proposal is unwieldy and creates even greater uncertainty than the current unsatisfactory funding arrangements”, Mr Daniels said.

"It needs to be recognised that state and territory governments are not only providers of public schools but they also regulate and compete with non-government schools. There needs to be a clear separation between the allocation of Commonwealth funds and state government responsibilities”, he said.

"We understand the desire of the Commission to minimise duplication and clarify the responsibilities for school education, including for school performance and outcomes. However stability and certainty about the levels of public funding are essential for the effective and efficient operation of independent schools, as is transparency”, Mr Daniels said.

"The independent sector has always strongly valued its direct funding relationship with the Australian Government and has done so for more than 40 years”, he said.

"ISCA is pleased that the NCOA has recognised that school funding needs to be maintained and indexed each year, however school cost drivers may not be adequately addressed by a simple weighted average of consumer price and wage price indexation arrangements as suggested”, Mr Daniels said.

"We will work closely with the Australian Government in the coming months to explore the feasibility of an alternative funding arrangement for independent schools that is nationally consistent, rather than to have each of the states and territories determine funding allocations for individual independent schools”, he said.

Press release from Independent schools council of Australia

Austerity will be needed to fix budget shortfall, says Ken Henry

A former head of Treasury says the Abbott government will have to pursue economic “austerity” if it is to fix the budget’s serious structural imbalance.

Dr Ken Henry, who served as Treasury secretary from 2001 to 2011, says the credibility of Australia’s fiscal policy relies on fixing the budget imbalance.

“To get the budget back into balance there will have to be a period of austerity relative to where the budget has been in the past several years,” Dr Henry told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday.

“I certainly did not anticipate that today [Commonwealth government] revenue would be 3 percentage points of gross domestic product below where it was a little more than a decade ago.”

“I mean, that’s actually quite an incredible thing that revenue could be that low despite the fact that Australia has had such a strong resources boom.”

Dr Henry was replaced as head of Treasury by Martin Parkinson in early 2011.

He chaired the so-called Henry tax review, published in 2010, which developed a blueprint for reforms to the tax system over the next 10 to 20 years.

Dr Henry highlighted on Wednesday that Commonwealth government revenue had fallen from 26 per cent of GDP in 2001-01 to just 23 per cent of GDP last year.

Meanwhile, government expenditure as a proportion of GDP had fallen from 25 per cent to 24 per cent over the same period.

“Because revenue has fallen by 3 percentage points of GDP and spending has fallen by only 1 per cent, the budget [has] flipped around from a surplus of 1 per cent of GDP to a deficit of 1 per cent,” Dr Henry said.

And estimates for the present fiscal year are for an “even larger deficit,” he said.

“That 3 percentage point gap between estimated spending and estimated revenue is of course not something that can be sustained if a government wants to maintain a commitment to having a budget surplus on average over the [economic] cycle,” Dr Henry said.

“Australian governments have had that commitment since the mid-1990s and it’s rather important to the credibility of the fiscal policy of Australia that that commitment [be maintained].”

Dr Henry’s comments will be welcomed by the Abbott government, which is under fire from its own constituency for plans to introduce a temporary “deficit tax” to help to return the budget to surplus.

Some Coalition MPs are furious that Prime Minister Abbott is planning to introduce the tax, plans of which were reported on Tuesday, saying it goes against his promise not to introduce any new taxes.

Dr Henry’s comments will lend support to Mr Abbott’s broader argument that Australia needs to fix its structural budget imbalance.

However, the business community has criticised the Abbott government’s planned deficit tax, saying it will do little to fix the budget imbalance.

“Temporary tax increases are no substitute for the reforms that are needed to bring spending back under control and put the budget onto a more sustainable footing,” Business Council of Australia chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, said on Tuesday.

Dr Henry also acknowledged that he was caught by surprise by the sharp fall in government revenue in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

“[Australia’s] medium-term fiscal strategy was interrupted somewhat by the global financial crisis,” Dr Henry said.

“Australia is not alone in having taken substantial fiscal action to address the negative impact on the economy of the global financial crisis.”

“[But] since then, revenue has not come back as strongly as many people, including myself, would have anticipated.”


A character: Queensland Small Business Minister Jann Stuckey advises boutique manager to ‘get a bit of leg out’ to boost sales

SMALL Business Minister Jann Stuckey told a Brisbane clothing store manager to “get a bit of leg out” when she was asked how to improve business during a tour of a shopping centre.

The gaffe-prone Minister met with business operators at the Calamvale Central Shopping Centre on Wednesday to discuss strategies to improve commercial confidence.

Instyle Boutique manager Tammy Young asked Ms Stuckey how foot traffic could be improved.  Ms Stuckey replied “Get a bit of leg out’’, before a minder ushered her out of the store and handed Ms Young a brochure.

The crass joke came after Ms Stuckey complimented Gloria Jeans franchisees on how appealing their food was but refused a takeaway coffee or cake that was offered.

Last night, Ms Stuckey told The Courier-Mail she had apologised for her comments, describing it as “lighthearted banter”.

“I enjoyed my visit to Calamvale Shopping Centre this week where I engaged in lighthearted banter with a number of retailers, including Instyle Boutique,” she said in a written statement.

“I have since contacted the business owner to apologise for any offence that may have been taken by that banter.”

Ms Young said she wasn’t offended by the comment but said she hoped the Government had more plans for small business than what Ms Stuckey offered during the tour.

“I would (get a bit of leg out) if I could but I think I might scare the customers away,” Ms Young said.

“I think it’s great she gets out and visits the small businesses and hopefully she’ll put some ideas in place to make it busier and get some more business through the store.”

Centre manager Brent Campbell gave Ms Stuckey a tour of the centre.

“During my visit I handed out the Queensland Small Business Strategy and Action Plan 2013-2015, which outlines the actions the Newman Government has already delivered to assist small business and our plans for the future to continue to grow this important sector of the economy,” Ms Stuckey said.


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