Whistleblowers have lifted the lid on Queensland’s dark history of brutal child neglect, after 58 kids known to authorities died in one year alone.
Six of the 58 children died from neglect or ‘suspected/confirmed’ fatal assault, four from drowning and 23 from natural cases.
Another 14 took their own lives, the Queensland Family and Child Commission report from 2018-19 found, ABC reported.
Since the last annual count in mid-2019, the state has seen even more horrific child deaths and instances of neglect, raising concerns over fatal mismanagement of abuse cases in the state.
In November, sisters Darcey and Chloe-Ann Conley died after they were allegedly left in a scorching hot car outside their Queensland home for seven hours.
Following the deaths, Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk confirmed the two girls were being monitored by the Department of Child Safety.
The allegedly decomposing and malnourished body of Willow Dunn (pictured), a toddler with Down Syndrome, was found in her cot in a Brisbane home on May 23
Chloe-Ann Conley (left), one, and her sister Darcey (right), two, were found dead inside a hot car outside their Queensland home in November last year. They were allegedly in the vehicle for up to seven hours but no one noticed
The allegedly decomposing and malnourished body of Willow Dunn, a toddler with Down Syndrome, was found in her cot in a Brisbane home on May 23 this year.
Her father Mark James Dunn and stepmother Shannon Leigh White were charged with murder, and it has since emerged the department had contact with the family in relation to Willow.
Days later, two autistic brothers, also known to authorities, were allegedly discovered locked in a filthy room in Brisbane starving and naked.
Child safety staff in Queensland have claimed their workload is ‘untenable’ and could lead to further tragedies, ABC Investigations revealed.
Cheryl Budge worked at the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women for 15 years before resigning in 2019.
‘I would describe the Department of Child Safety in Queensland as currently self-imploding,’ she said.
Rebecca Hocking, Ms Budge’s former colleague, is a child safety officer who has been on stress leave since 2018 after struggling to sleep and suffering from anxiety due to the demands of her job.
Ms Hocking believes a number of deaths could have been prevented if staff weren’t slammed with their workload.
‘From my perspective, if workers had the time to be doing what they’re meant to be doing … very likely some of these cases where children have died or suffered extreme harm wouldn’t have occurred,’ she said.
Mason Jet Lee (pictured) died after his mother’s boyfriend struck him so hard in the abdomen it ruptured the 22-month-old’s small intestine, leading to an infection
Speaking to eight current and former workers, ABC Investigations found child safety worker caseloads were typically more than the average of 17 to 18 reported by the government in July.
Ms Budge said: ‘The caseloads in Queensland … were excessive in the sense that most child safety officers would hold a caseload between 20 and 30 children … really all they’re able to do is crisis management.’
In Western Australia there is a limit of 15 cases per worker, while South Australia has an average under 15 and Victoria’s average is 14.
Ms Hocking said she questioned the department’s average caseload figures in 2015 and 2018.
She said the ‘misrepresenting’ is ‘grossly unfair’ and doesn’t acknowledge the potential harm to children because safety officers can’t meet their needs.
Ms Hocking said ‘something needs to change’ to stop putting children in harm and forcing workers to struggle through untenable workloads.
Rick Thorburn murdered his 12-year-old foster daughter Tialeigh Palmer (pictured) on the Gold Coast in 2015. Child safety was slammed for putting the schoolgirl in Thorburn’s care
Mason Lee ‘was failed in almost every possible way’ before the toddler was forced to endure a slow and painful death at the hands of his mum and her boyfriend
A 22-month-old boy who was bashed by his mother’s boyfriend and left to die was failed in ‘nearly every possible way’ by the Department of Child Safety, a coroner has ruled.
Mason Jet Lee died of an infection in Caboolture, Queensland, in June 2016 after William O’Sullivan struck him in the abdomen so hard it ruptured his small intestine.
Deputy state coroner Jane Bentley said ‘the handling of Mason’s case was a failure in nearly every possible way’ when she handed down her findings in the Brisbane Coroners Court on June 2.
The family had been known to the child safety department since before Mason’s birth in 2014. Mason is pictured with his mother Anne-Maree Lee
‘I conclude that the department failed in its duty to protect Mason from the risk of serious harm that he faced in the months prior to his death,’ she wrote in her findings.
‘Indeed, it is difficult to find any step taken in this case that was carried out in accordance with policies and procedures and correctly documented.
‘The fact that the Ethical Standards Unit (ESU) found that 21 employees of the department involved in Mason’s case (10 at CCSSC and a further 11 employees involved in intakes) failed to carry out their duties appropriately is indicative of the scale of the failure.’