Sunday, October 08, 2006

Government social workers 'left children at serious risk'

Children and babies have potentially been placed at serious risk by Victorian child protection workers, who have been criticised for inadequately caring for up to 47 vulnerable children in just one country region. The damning findings by state Ombudsman George Brouwer follow a Department of Human Services investigation that did not identify any major case practice weaknesses by workers in the region. Mr Brouwer investigated the child protection program, believed to be in the Loddon-Mallee region, after whistleblowers told his office that many children were at increased risk because they did not have a case worker.

Regional managers were accused of failing to thoroughly investigate and intervene in cases where children were at risk, manipulating statistics to meet performance targets and failing to follow established procedures. Experienced child protection staff told Mr Brouwer they lacked confidence in the ability of managers to address their concerns about quality of service to the region.

Mr Brouwer's investigators reviewed 34 cases involving 57 children that had been reported to the department. "In 26 cases involving 47 children, the region may not have responded appropriately to children at risk," Mr Brouwer said. "I noted high numbers of unallocated cases, including high-risk infants. "A significant number of these cases were not receiving adequate intervention by child protection staff and I believe this may have left a number of children, including infants, in situations of serious risk." Mr Brouwer said the department responded quickly to the concerns identified by his investigation. He said the Government has taken "significant action" in several cases.

The department assured the Ombudsman that a "comprehensive strategy" was being implemented to strengthen the child protection program in the region. Mr Brouwer's findings were made in his annual report, which also slammed Victorian authorities for failing to remove a five-month-old baby from his abusive foster parents even though he was admitted to hospital three times with increasingly serious injuries. The boy's sister is believed to have told police she saw the foster mother try to remove the baby's teeth with a knife. The Weekend Australian believes child protection authorities were told about the abuse by health professionals and police but did not act until after his third visit to hospital.

Chris Goddard, the director of the National Research Centre for the Prevention of Child Abuse, said Mr Brouwer's findings were further evidence that state child protection services needed to be subject to independent scrutiny.


Australia's most Leftist education system produces kids who cannot do basic maths

Incoming national mathematics standards expect 10-year-olds to be able to add and subtract numbers in their thousands and deal with fractions in their hundredths. But in Western Australia, the curriculum demands much less, requiring students only to recognise simple fractions such as halves and quarters. A comparison of the West Australian maths course with the national standards reveals a huge variation in the knowledge expected of students, reinforcing the call yesterday by federal Education Minister Julie Bishop for a national curriculum.

The mathematical abilities required of students in Western Australia is well below national standards, with the state slipping even further behind in the past two years. Under the outcomes-based education system in Western Australia, students are graded at eight levels of achievement, which span all years of school. Two years ago, students were expected to have reached level four by the end of Year 5, which in maths would mean being able to rewrite 0.35 as 35/100 and knowing that 3/4 is less than 7/8. But revised targets mean today's Year 5 students are expected to reach between levels two and three. Students at level two can divide into equal thirds, recognise and write 1/3, 1/5 and 1/7 but cannot consistently write 2/3.

The national standards expected are still more demanding, requiring the 10-year-olds to add one-quarter to one-half and describe 2.12 as two and twelve hundredths. Ms Bishop said the differing expectations clearly demonstrated the inconsistency and falling standards that had prompted her call for a national curriculum. "It's even more reason for us to focus on raising standards and making curriculum accountable," she said.

Ms Bishop said the states and territories had come a long way towards a national curriculum with an agreement in August on National Statements of Learning that set out the core and essential elements in five subjects. The statements of learning for students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 were approved by all state and territory education ministers and must be incorporated into their individual curriculums by 2008 as a condition of federal funding. In addition, a common national literacy and numeracy test will be introduced from 2008, replacing the individual tests the states and territories now set


More of that great government "security"

More guards too busy watching TV to do their duties -- after a similar lapse only a fortnight ago -- and plenty more before that. If government security cannot even protect the Prime Minister properly, what hope is there for anyone else?

An incredible security breach at the Sydney office of Prime Minister John Howard allowed a man to wander unchecked in a restricted area guarded 24 hours a day by Australian Protective Service officers. A self-confessed heroin addict was allegedly captured by CCTV cameras wandering around Mr Howard's Phillip St office after hours - despite an APS guard stationed behind a glass screen in the reception area. He left the floor without being questioned before entering a nearby building where he stole $17,000 worth of computer equipment, a Sydney court heard yesterday.

Although the incident occurred last month - when Mr Howard was in Canberra - the accused thief was not caught until Thursday, when he was arrested on unrelated matters. Simon Ilan Moses, a 31-year-old storeman from Surry Hills,appeared in Central Local Court charged with a string of offences. Police claim that shortly after 7pm on September 7, Moses "did break and enter the office of the Prime Minister of Australia at Level 8, 70 Phillip St and then did commit a serious indictable offence, stealing certain property''. He is also charged with maliciously damaging an elevator control panel - "the property of the Sydney Commonwealth Parliamentary Office'' - in a bid to access floors in the Prime Minister's building.

Access to the building is restricted after 7pm to staff with a security pass. In a tendered statement,police alleged Moses was seen on CCTV to enter the building via the secured front door after a staff member had exited. "CCTV footage shows the accused entering the building at 7.16pm and then attempting to access the lifts in the foyer,'' the statement said. Police claim Moses entered an lift with a cleaner and rode it to the secured floors above. He allegedly remained in the lift when the cleaner exited. "While in the lift, the accused has forcibly removed the control panel,'' police allege. "The wires inside ... have been manipulated in an attempt to allow access to all floors. "The accused has attempted to enter numerous floors throughout the building, but was captured by CCTV exiting the lifts at Level 8.''

The footage allegedly shows Moses carrying a "green-coloured folder with a white outline of a map depicting the state boundaries of NSW'' as he wanders the Prime Minister's floor. Remarkably, he was able to leave the building unchallenged. He then walked a short distance to another building at 52 Phillip St, where he is accused of entering the sixth floor of the Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA) and stealing the computer equipment.

The following morning GESA staff discovered the missing computers and found a green folder with a map of the NSW state boundaries on it. "The folder was seized by police and underwent fingerprint analysis,'' the court heard. "The results of the analysis indicate that the fingerprints of the accused were identified.'' Moses was arrested in Macquarie St on Thursday night after he allegedly ran from police who had spotted him pushing a wheelie bin. Moses was refused bail by magistrate Allan Moore and will re-appear in court next week


Greens hitting back at the Brethren

Amusingly, the article below is written by a Ms Green! Her biases show in the opening words. The Brethren are mostly just ordinary working people

A wealthy and exclusive religious cult which has been blamed for destroying families [The Catholic Church hasd been blamed for lots of thiungs too. Should itsa schools be closed down?] is operating in at least six private schools in Queensland with the help of government funding. The Exclusive Brethren, which has been exposed in recent months for its controversial forays into politics in both New Zealand and Australia, is also actively scheming to ensure John Howard is re-elected as Prime Minister in next year's federal poll.

A former lifelong Brethren member from Bundaberg who managed to escape the group with his family eight years ago said yesterday that the cult's hypocrisy and "brazen" push into politics could end up compromising the Government.

Mr Howard revealed last week that he had met with members of the Exclusive Brethren, saying "it's a free country . . . and like any other group they are entitled to put their views to the Government". "I've met a lot more fanatical people in my life than the Exclusive Brethren," Mr Howard was reported as saying. However, members of the Greens, which the Brethren have targeted with hugely negative advertising campaigns in recent state elections, have questioned how such a politically motivated group which bans tertiary education can benefit from both state and federal funding for its schools around Australia.

With one Queensland government source privately describing the school grants as "a gravy train", Queensland Greens election spokeswoman Juanita Wheeler has called for a rethink of guidelines which allow Exclusive Brethren schools to gain non-state school accreditation. The Exclusive Brethren currently operates schools at Norman Park, and in Bundaberg, Nambour, Toowoomba, Warwick and near Maryborough. The group is also understood to be well advanced with plans for a major new school at Tingalpa in Brisbane.

A media release signed by three leading Brethren men said that the group's position was "not to participate in the political process by voting, but to testify to the truth according to our consciences and pray for and support good government".

Businessman Trevor Hill, who rose to become one of the Exclusive Brethren's "trustees" before leaving at the age of 44, said the real problem with governments or potential governments receiving money from the Brethren was that it gave the group power - boosting its ability to lobby governments and, where political donations had been substantial, the obligations were correspondingly substantial


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