Tuesday, February 06, 2007

More child-abuse incompetence by government in Queensland

Big spending but poor results. Where have we heard that before? I guess that two years is not NEARLY enough for a government agency to catch up on its backlog. Kids could suffer a lot of abuse in two years, though

Almost 8000 child-abuse cases remain stalled despite record spending to clear the backlog -- and the State Government has pledged more funds. The Government poured $344 million into child protection in 2006, up from $290 million the year before. The Report on Government Services shows that Queensland has spent more new money on child protection than the other states and territories combined.

The Government says the spending is yielding results, with Premier Peter Beattie and Child Safety Minister Desley Boyle today announcing an extra $5 million. "In the past eight months, we have seen a 37 per cent drop in the number of cases not finalised, from 12,699 in April 2006 to 7977 last month," Ms Boyle said. Mr Beattie said the new funding would help ease the backlog but there were still too many cases in limbo. He said $3 million would be made available in 2006-07 for a major assault on backlog cases, and an additional $2 million would be spent the following financial year on work by records officers. "While all urgent cases are investigated within 24 hours and action taken to protect children, there are still too many other cases yet to be finalised," Mr Beattie said.

Gail Slocombe, executive director of PeakCare - the umbrella organisation for non-government child protection service providers - said the money could be better spent. "If we had more preventive measures, like early intervention and support for families, we wouldn't have so many reports in the first place," she said.

The Child Safety Department's 2005-06 annual report, released in November, showed that of 33,612 abuse notifications during the year, one third had not been finalised. Ms Boyle said when the department was created in 2004, it inherited a backlog. A growing awareness of child abuse also saw workloads increase. "The backlog has been, and in some offices remains, one of the stresses our workers have had to carry", she said.

But things are looking up. Last December, Inala, Pine Rivers, Chermside, Sunshine Coast North, Beaudesert, Alderley and Gympie had all cleared their outstanding investigations. Those offices within 50 cases of their target included Wynnum, Innisfail, Gladstone, Sunshine Coast South, South Burnett, Bowen, Redcliffe. Cairns South, Caboolture, Fortitude Valley, Toowoomba North, Loganlea and Woodridge.

"I want all our offices to have the stress of backlog cases removed," Ms Boyle said. She said the extra money would be used to employ more temporary senior child-safety officers, team leaders, records officers and administrative staff who would focus exclusively on finalising outstanding cases.

The above report by Edmund Burke appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on February, 4, 2006

The truth at last about killer cop

Amazing that they tried to cover this up -- out of fear of the police union. Very sad that it took huge public protests to get a killer cop into court. The cop and his government protector below

Sir Laurence Street's confidential report into the Palm Island death in custody says there is evidence to convict a policeman of knowingly inflicting the injuries which killed Aboriginal man Mulrunji. The former NSW chief justice found a jury could make the "rational inference" that Senior-Sergeant Chris Hurley deliberately kneed Mulrunji as he lay on the concrete floor of the lock-up.

Sir Laurence's 12-page legal opinion for the State Government - obtained exclusively by The Courier-Mail - contradicts the finding by Director of Public Prosections Leanne Clare that the death was accidental. Attorney-General Kerry Shine used Sir Laurence's advice to overrule Ms Clare and announce Sen-Sgt Hurley would be charged with manslaughter, sparking a backlash from the Police Union. Sen-Sgt Hurley is yet to be formally charged.

Sir Laurence emphasised he was not expressing an opinion on Sen-Sgt Hurley's guilt or passing judgment on Ms Clare's decision-making. But he said a "reasonable jury" could conclude that Mulrunji's fatal injuries were inflicted when the policeman kneed him during an altercation in the Palm Island watchhouse on November 19, 2004. Further, the jury could find there was "no reasonable hypothesis" consistent with Sen-Sgt Hurley's innocence, or the death being accidental.

"A jury could well find that the only rational inference that can be drawn as to the fatal injury is that it was inflicted by Sen-Sgt Hurley deliberately kneeing Mulrunji in the upper right abdominal area," Sir Laurence reported. Logically, the injury could only have been caused by an accidental application of force by Sen-Sgt Hurley when Mulrunji fell, or by a deliberate kneeing by Sen-Sgt Hurley then, or immediately afterwards. But Sen-Sgt Hurley had told police investigators that he did not fall on Mulrunji or apply any force which could explain his fatal injuries.

This was factually incorrect and "could be considered by a jury to be untruths told out of a consciousness of guilt and fear of the truth" by Sen-Sgt Hurley, Sir Laurence found. It was open to the jury to conclude that Sen-Sgt Hurley had been trying to subdue Mulrunji at the watch-house.


Teacher trainees not being trained

Typical government management of supply and demand

A leaked report by a State Government working party says West Australian schools are increasingly reluctant to allow undergraduates into classrooms for the work experience they need to get a teaching degree. As the Carpenter Government battles to fill a record shortfall of more than 200 teachers this year, the report warns that some student teachers may not be able to graduate due to a lack of work experience places in the state's schools. The trend has universities worried about the next generation of teachers.

In 2005, some Victorian student teachers were unable to graduate because of a lack of work experience placements, the report says. The report, Teacher Supply and Demand and Student Placements in Western Australia, was completed late last year. It includes claims by Murdoch University that it struggled to place student teachers in schools despite using small gifts to try to entice teachers to take them. "Murdoch tries to do PR and gives small gifts and certificates, but it is stressful having to go to the same teachers time and again and fewer want to be involved," the report stated.

The severe teacher shortage facing government schools in Western Australia - the shortfall had dropped yesterday to 166 full-time and 44 part-time teachers following an urgent recruitment drive - has reached some independent schools.

Independent schools told the authors of the report that it was increasingly difficult to fill positions in rural Western Australia. And it was extremely difficult to place teachers in Aboriginal communities. Those who went rarely stayed more than a year. [I wonder why?] "This staff turnover compounds the disadvantage experienced by the schools," the report says.



Women whose breast cancer has advanced despite all available treatments - including Herceptin - will have access to a new drug before it is approved for use in Australia. Tykerb was so successful in an international trial of women with late-stage or metastatic HER2 positive breast cancer, it has been made available through oncologists prior to approval by the Therapeutic Goods Association. It will be offered at 13 sites around Australia, including the Mater and St George hospitals in Sydney.

Tykerb gives fresh hope to women whose cancer has spread despite treatment with other therapies, including Herceptin. When taken in combination with chemotherapy drug Xeloda, it was shown the average delay in the time it took the cancer to progress was 36.9 weeks, compared with 19.7 weeks for patients treated with chemotherapy alone. Medicare data shows 52 per cent of women with end-stage breast cancer do not respond to Herceptin.

In addition, Tykerb, a once daily oral drug, substantially reduces the risk of HER2 cancer metastasising in the brain. Oncologist Professor Fran Boyle is already using the combination therapy on 10 patients at the Mater Hospital. "There has been a clear need for alternative treatments to help women with metastatic breast cancer in this advanced setting," she said. "This is a big deal for a small number of women."

Patients enrolled in the expanded access program will not have to pay for the drug, but it will be offered only to women who have tried other therapies without success. Once regulatory approval is gained, the program will end but women already being treated will continue to be provided with free treatment.

GlaxoSmithKline said clinical trials of the drug for early-stage breast cancer would begin this year. The company will eventually apply to put Tykerb on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Herceptin, which costs patients about $50,000 a year, was put on the PBS in October.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare predicts the number of Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer will rise from 13,261 in 2006 to 14,800 in 2011. Of these, about 25 per cent will have HER2 positive breast cancer, a more aggressive form of the disease.

Carol Galluzzi volunteered for the Tykerb trial at the end of last year after 10 months of Herceptin failed to reduce the size of the tumour in her breast. After paying more than $21,000 for seven Herceptin treatments, the trial was a welcome financial relief. She takes five tablets daily in addition to an oral chemotherapy drug and said her quality of life had improved greatly since switching treatments. "I can look after my grandkids now where before I just didn't have the energy - and there aren't as many side effects."


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