Posted on 29. Jun, 2011 in News

Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge must immediately release the findings of an internal investigation that has left Victoria’s residential care services in crisis, the Shadow Minister for Child Safety, Luke Donnellan, said today.

Mr Donnellan said Ms Wooldridge had taken the extraordinary step of shutting down Orana Uniting Care following a Department investigation into a case involving a nine-year-old boy in state care, who was abandoned in a park.

Mr Donnellan said the investigation had uncovered several other incidents at the agency – including allegations of child abuse.

Today, Ms Wooldridge was forced to admit the Orana affair had exposed systemic issues across the residential care sector, with up to four other agencies being investigated.

“Ms Wooldridge is running a child protection system in crisis,” Mr Donnellan said.

“The Orana Affair has exposed a litany of other serious incidents not only at Orana – but across the residential care system.

“Ms Wooldridge needs to detail what those incidents are – and what other agencies are being investigated.

“You can’t improve a system unless you are transparent and accountable.

“To restore public confidence in Victoria’s child protection system, the public must be told what other centres are also being investigated and who is investigating these centres.

“More importantly, we need to know what safeguards are in place to protect children in the care of the agencies being investigated.”

Mr Donnellan said the Orana Affair raised serious questions about Ms Wooldridge’s competency and ability to keep Victoria’s most vulnerable children safe.

“Ms Wooldridge has a ‘head in the sand’ approach to child protection. She believes the less she knows about what is happening in her portfolio, the better,” he said

“The Orana Affair is a case in point. Ms Wooldridge knew nothing about the boy’s abandonment until she was contacted about the incident by the media a month later.

“Let’s hope Ms Wooldridge changes her attitude and deals with this crisis in a transparent and accountable way before another child in state care goes missing – or worse.”

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