The State Opposition has demanded an inquiry into an alleged potential breach of the state’s child protection act by Families SA, after a column by high-profile media personality Amanda Blair “referred specifically” to a high-profile case.
Opposition Education spokesman David Pisoni has written to Minister Susan Close to “request an independent investigation into a possible breach of Section 58(1) of the Child Protection Act”, InDaily can reveal.
The relevant section dictates that anyone “engaged in the administration of this Act who … obtains personal information relating to a child, a child’s guardians or other family members … must not divulge that information”. The maximum penalty for a breach is a $10,000 fine.
Blair – well known as a columnist and broadcaster who serves on various boards including the Independent Gambling Authority and SA Health’s Suicide Prevention Arm – wrote in the Advertiser that Pisoni had “a new BFF visiting him in Parliament House – Jacqueline Bowden”.
Bowden is a former foster carer who has publicly railed against her treatment by Families SA, which she says gave only an hour’s notice to remove her seven-year-old foster daughter from her care in December 2011.
She has detailed her treatment in the media, including recently on ABC891. She also interrupted a media conference by Minister Close last week. Close was calling for more people to become foster carers when Bowden stepped in to demand “how you’ve improved things and when you’re going to return (her foster daughter)”.
Close told her: “We’ll have to talk about your particular issue together, won’t we, because we don’t want the private details of that child issued in front of the media.”
Blair wrote in her subsequent Saturday column: “Like DECD and Minister Close, I can’t say too much about this case, but I can say that despite what you’ve heard, the removal of the child was not a decision that was taken lightly nor made overnight.”
“In retrospect, I’m sure there may be elements that could have been handled differently and I’m not blindly defending a government department. But DECD have stood up and admitted they don’t always get it right and seriously, how can they?” she continued.
Pisoni wrote to the minister that Blair’s column “gives the clear impression that Ms Blair is aware of details of the Bowden case that are not publicly available”.
“The Bowdens have confirmed with me that they have not discussed any of their details with Ms Blair,” he writes.
He also questions whether information about the case has been provided to ABC891, from “a third party who was either involved in the case or had been briefed on the Bowden’s personal affairs relating to their foster care”.
Pisoni’s letter quotes radio presenter Matthew Abraham as saying on air that “there’s a lot of information that is being made available to the media, including this program and others…which wouldn’t appear to be available to the Bowdens”.
Abraham told InDaily neither he nor fellow presenter David Bevan disclose their sources.
Pisoni writes to Close: “I’ve no doubt that you share my concerns regarding a potential breach of the confidentiality provisions of the Act.”
“On the evidence available there needs to be an independent investigation into these potential breaches of the Act,” he continues.
Close told InDaily in a statement: “I have no knowledge of private information relating to any child under guardianship being provided to the media or the opposition.”
“Public airing of guardianship children’s private lives and circumstances is never acceptable,” she said.
InDaily contacted Blair, who said “nobody has done anything wrong”.
“I’m a columnist and I’m entitled to my opinion on this and any other case that’s been profiled in the media by Mr Pisoni,” she said.
“If Mr Pisoni would like to use taxpayers’ money pursuing this empty line of inquiry, he can knock himself out.”
Local News Matters
Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.