The Power and the Responsibility: Child Protection in the Post-Welfare State Era

Government-run child protection services in Australia are plagued by systemic problems including a misguided emphasis on family preservation. This paper examines the cultural, political and ideological impediments to change. Recent flawed ‘reform’ programs in NSW and Victoria have highlighted these problems, especially the negative role played by non-government sector interest-groups. This suggests the political process is unlikely to deliver genuine reform without undertaking a radical re-organisation of the child protection system based on the liberal principles of citizenship and civil society. Drawing upon the writings of John Stuart Mill, the paper suggests that ordinary citizens must take back the power and responsibility for child protection from state bureaucracies.