Days after the ABC reported on the story of Ashley*, who says two of her children were abused by their step-grandfather, child safety officials have finally taken a step to intervene, moving another child and Ashley’s mother to another location.
- Ashley has had to fight to regain guardianship of her children after child safety got involved
- She says two of her children have been sexually abused by a man who continues living on the property
- After the ABC ran her story, child safety told her her another of her children should not still be in their grandmother’s custody, but has failed to act
Warning: This article contains content that some readers may find distressing.
Tasmanian child safety officials held a meeting yesterday after the ABC’s story was published and said a new case worker would be assigned to Ashley’s child.
But this morning, Ashley said staff told her she would not get a new case worker because “they’re at capacity and don’t have staff”.
Then, this afternoon, she was told her child and her mother had been moved to another location while the department worked through the situation.
Ashley has previously told of how child safety in Tasmania advised her to sign over her parental rights more than a decade ago when she awoke from a coma and struggled to look after herself. She had also previously struggled with mental health issues triggered by an abusive relationship.
“When I was told to sign the kids over, I was not fit and well to sign any court documents or any legal documents,” she said.
Ashley’s mother became the carer of her children.
“Really late one night, my mum called me and she said, ‘I’ve got something terrible to tell you,'” Ashley said.
“My heart just sank. I thought maybe one of the kids died.”
Ashley’s mother said her oldest daughter had told her “pop” had been sexually abusing her “for a very long time”.
She went to check on her daughter.
“Her exact words were to me, ‘I’ve been hiding it for a very long time, Mum,'” she said.
Child safety warned for two years
Ashley notified child safety, who assessed the situation and found the children were safe because their grandmother’s husband — the children’s step-grandfather — had moved out.
But Ashley later found out he had moved back and continued to live in a caravan on the property.
She said child safety told her that because the man was technically not living in the house, there was no safety risk.
Ashley has regained custody of all except one of her children.
Weeks ago, another one of Ashley’s children said their step-grandfather had abused them. She reported it to Tasmania Police.
On Tuesday, Ashley told the ABC she had tried to alert child safety for two years about the situation to no avail.
“The worker I spoke to said they have enough evidence for my [child] to not be there,” she said.
“Nothing’s been done. Nothing’s been done for a very long time.
‘Just utterly unacceptable’
State opposition spokeswoman for child safety Sarah Lovell said there were “significant concerns about the safety of this child”.
“It’s absolutely not acceptable for these kinds of concerns to take two years to have any kind of response,” she said.
“We find ourselves hearing time and time again about situations like this, which any reasonable person would have very serious and significant questions about.”
Lawyer Sebastian Buscemi said there appeared to have been “complete, abject failures” in Ashley’s case.
“It’s just utterly unacceptable for there to be any delay to leave a child in a position of risk … for two years, when there are alternative placements as well, I think it’s unacceptable.
“We see time and time again in state care almost disregard of the welfare and rights of children within care.
“It suggests that the welfare and safety of children are nowhere near the top of the priority for the department.”
Tasmania’s Department of Communities said in a statement that it was “inappropriate to discuss individual case matters relating to specific children and families”.
“When concerns are raised relating to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, the Advice and Referral Line undertakes an assessment to determine appropriate actions, including whether a referral to the Statutory Child Safety Service for direct investigation is required,” the statement read.
Earlier this week, ABC published an investigation outlining child protection failings in every state and territory.
The report relied on submissions from more than 700 people, including more than 200 current and former workers.
Since then, hundreds more have come forward with concerns about the system, and there are mounting calls for “national leadership” on the issue.
*Name has been changed for legal reasons.
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