What is Delegated Authority?
Delegated authority is a process where the functions or powers that the Chief Executive of Child Safety (Director General) holds under the Child Protection Act 1999 are delegated to the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entity for an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander child.
Delegated authority transforms how child protection services are delivered by having the decisions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in the sector, rather than by staff in Child Safety. It also represents a significant opportunity to shift the child safety system and as such, is a high priority action under the “Our Way” Strategy 2017-2037 . Delegated authority supports efforts towards Closing the Gap and implementation of Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s children 2021-2031.
The concept of delegated authority in Queensland originally came about when the Child Protection Act 1999 in Queensland was being amended back in 2017. Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak (QATSICPP) and the community controlled sector fought hard for self-determination and the right for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to make decisions about their children and families included into the legislation.
The current system continues to have negative impact on our communities and as sector we believe that we are best suited to support our families and keep our children safe.
Key Features of Delegated Authority
This is defined in s148BA of the Child Protection Act 1999 Act as an entity that has a function of providing services to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples and whose members include individuals who have appropriate knowledge of, or expertise in, child protection.
The CEO of an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander entity can hold powers that have been assigned by the Director General of Child Safety through delegated authority. To be an considered for delegated authority the CEO must:
- be an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person.
- have a current positive prescribed notice or a current exemption notice (Blue Card or Exemption).
- be appropriately qualified and a suitable person to exercise the power in relation to the child eg. have an understanding of the Child Protection Act 1999.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families subject to statutory intervention based on the Child Protection Act 1999 are eligible for referral to delegated authority.
Referrals of children and families to participate in delegated authority may be made through a Child Safety Service Centre, from a community controlled organisation or directly from a family themselves who may raise their interest with a Child Safety Service Centre or the community controlled organisation.
Child Safety and an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander entity will then work together to identify which decisions might be in scope for delegation for the child and family. As part of that process, children and their family are asked their views (where appropriate in terms of the age of the child).
Delegations are related to an individual child and for a specific decision. Formal letters of request and the offer between the Director-General of Child Safety and the Chief Executive Officer of an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander entity are then exchanged before the delegation comes into effect. The details about the child and the delegated decisions are specified in the letters that are exchanged between the CEO and Director General.
Yes. Section148BB(4), of the Child Protection Act 1999 requires the Director-General to seek and consider the views of a child and their parents about the proposal to delegate an authority to a CEO of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Entity.
Genuinely asking and giving careful consideration to the views of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait child and their parents as part of this process, is a key obligation under the Child Protection Act 1999. Obtaining and considering the views of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people supports in upholding rights of self-determination and active inclusion in decision making.
Most functions and powers of the Director-General of Child Safety outlined in the Child Protection Act 1999 can be delegated. There are some exceptions such as completing an Investigation and Assessment (under section 14(1)(a) of the Act); making an application for a temporary assessment order, court assessment order or temporary custody order.
Currently, decisions about family connection, placement, reunification and case planning are made by Child Safety. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander entities currently, do not have the power to make these decisions. They may work closely with families and Child Safety staff in case work and case planning but ultimately decision-making sits with the Child Safety.
When delegated authority is in place for a child the decision-making power sits with the CEO of an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander entity. The CEO and the community controlled staff working with the family will work in ways that are culturally safe and grounded in cultural ways of doing, being and knowing.
Some more of the detail
The CEO of an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander entity will be required to complete the following process to request delegated authority.
Once all the discussions between the Child Safety Service Centre and the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander entity has been completed and the parent and child/person’s views have been considered – then the formal documentation commences. Below is a brief outline of the process and the types of documentation at those stages:
- The Community Controlled Organisation will write to the Director General of the Child Safety department with a request for the delegation of particular decisions for a child/ren.
- The Board of the CCO will also providing a letter verifying that the organisation and CEO meet the requirements for delegation.
- The Director General will sign an Instrument of delegation – this is the formal document which says which delegations have been given to the CEO and for which child/ren. The instrument will come with a letter of offer from the DG to the CEO.
- The CCO CEO will then write to the Regional Director accepting the letter of offer.
This may seem like a lot of formal paperwork but it is important to have a written record of when the delegation has occurred and for what decision/s so everybody is clear about who is responsible for the decision. . If/when your CEO and organisation takes on delegated authority, there will be resources and templates available to support the completion of the documents.
Yes, decisions made by the CEO can be reviewed. Like any decision made under the Child Protection Act 1999 they can have a significant impact on children and their families. It is important that decisions are communicated clearly to families and also that children and young people are advised of the decisions that affect them, in a way that is suitable for their age, maturity and capacity to understand.
Children and families also need to be advised of the ways that they can ask for decisions to be reviewed. This is the same for when the CEO makes the decisions. CCOs would need to have internal mechanisms to enable families to ask for reviews of decisions within the organisation.
There are also legislative obligations for anyone making particular decisions under the Child Protection Act 1999. These are called reviewable decisions and means that the decision-maker must ensure that when a decision has been made the following information is provided to those impacted by the decision:
- The decision is in writing.
- The correct people are notified.
- The reasons for the decision are provided.
- An opportunity to have that decision reviewed if they don’t agree with it.
Certain decisions can be appealed to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
Our community and delegated authority
It will mean Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families experience decision-making by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in the sector. Decisions will be made by people who understand our way of doing, being and knowing and understand our parenting and cultural practices.
Below are also important elements of how delegated authority supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families:
- Safety, culture, wellbeing, healing, and connection to be at the forefront of services.
- Self-determination is realised through choice and having a voice in decision making.
- Supporting rights to culture being recognised so that children can grow up with a strong sense of identity and connection.
- Sustained partnerships and collaborations are developed between Child Safety and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander entities to work in this new way.
Our shared vision for delegated authority is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families who are involved in the child protection system (or at risk of becoming involved in the system) may receive support from the organisations that know them and their community best and have their safety, rights and voice upheld in this process, so they grow up safe and connected to family, community, and culture.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community controlled organisations (CCO) will have the power to make decisions for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children and families. They will be more effective in keeping children and families connected and in giving families voice and enabling self-determination. Families will work with organisations that are culturally safe and that have respect for cultural protocols and practices.
One of the key opportunities for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander entities taking on delegations for children and families is that our sector will exercises the powers and functions in our way, utilising our cultural expertise to get a better result. Community controlled organisations hold cultural knowledge and understanding that allows for families to be supported in more culturally responsive and safe ways.
QATSICPP is taking a lead role in supporting the community controlled sector and each Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander entity to work through how they want to implement delegated authority in their organisation and community. The Department is also working internally with its own staff to support the roll out as well as working with QATSICPP to make available the policies, procedures, training and supports that the sector will need.
Each CCO will lead the implementation for their children and families, ensuring that it aligns with their communities’ needs and priorities. The organisation will also ensure that delegated authority complements the other services and programs that it provides.
What next with the roll-out?
Delegated authority commenced in Queensland in 2019 in the two early adopter sites of REFOCUS (Sunshine Coast) and later Central Queensland Indigenous Development Ltd (CQID)(Central Queensland) with the establishment of the systems and processes necessary to support delegated authority.
As at the 1st September 2023 between them the two early adopter organisations have received delegations for 126 children and young people. These delegations include
- decisions about family time (contact with family)(Section 87 of the Child Protection Act 1999)
- cultural connection (Section 88) and
- placement with parents (Section 82(2)).
During 2022 regional discussions occurred across the state to seek the sector’s views about how delegated authority could roll out across Queensland. These forums formed the basis for the development of the blueprint for the rollout – Reclaiming our storyline – Transforming systems and practice by making decisions in our way. This was launched in April 2023.
The Queensland Government has made a financial commitment to enable the roll out of delegated authority across the state. This commitment reflects government’s support for the proposed approach to implementation of delegated authority outlined in Reclaiming Our Storyline.
From July to October 2023 Regional Sector Engagement Sessions have been occurring across the state with Chief Executives of CCOs. These discussions were an opportunity for organisations to identify what their aspirations where in relation to delegated authority. These regional discussions will inform the next stage of roll out for 2023- 2024 with a number of number of organisations ready to progress with taking on delegated authority. Other organisations have indicated that they would like more time to consider what delegated authority could look like for their organisation and are not ready to progress in 2023 -2024.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations determine which delegations they wish to take on. There may be parts of the child safety continuum that organisations choose not to be involved in in terms of decision-making through delegated authority.
The Blueprint recommends that CCOs look at starting with taking on section 87 and 88 Child Protection Act 1999. These relate to family time (family contact) and cultural connection. The experience from the early adopters sites was that this enabled them to test the processes and grow confidence internally. They have since moved on to taking on other delegations.
CCOs may choose to start with different delegations that may be more relevant for their community and organisation. Organisations will receive support from QATSICPP and the department when considering the delegations to take on.
Yarn with us
There is a dedicated email address where questions about delegated authority can go to. Please email email@example.com
QATSICPP webpage – this will contain FAQs and other key information:
The QATSICPP Centre of Excellence website gives you access to the action research report from the first two delegated authority sites: https://coe.qatsicpp.com.au/implementing-delegated-authority-capturing-our-story-final-action-research-report-october-2021/
CEOs and the staff supporting their decision making will have access to a range of information and supports from both QATSICPP and Child Safety. This includes support from the Child Safety Court Services team if a decision of the delegate is appealed to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), access to the departmental policies and procedures to inform their decision-making.