A school principal has told an inquest if he had had access to Centrelink records, a pupil may not have fallen through the cracks and died.
Allowing Queensland school principals access to parents’ Centrelink data may prevent abused children from falling through the cracks, an inquest into the death of a girl at the hands of her mother has heard.
A coronial inquest is underway in Cairns looking into what involvement government and private agencies had with the eight-year-old before she died after being repeatedly bashed by her mother in Cairns in 2011.
The mother, a New Zealand citizen, is serving a seven-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter last year.
The principal of the last Cairns school the girl attended told a court on Thursday that instances of child abuse could be prevented if heads of school had access to parents’ basic Centrelink details, including contact details, but excluding payment details.
He added that had the school known the mother was still receiving payments in Cairns it may have triggered a red flag and led to action being taken.
“Whether that could have saved [the girl] I don’t know, but whether that goes a long way to stop kids from being lost I don’t know,” he said.
“I think it should be a compliance thing for all schools to have that (access to Centrelink).”
Holding back tears, the principal at one point said he’d lost a lot of sleep over the girl’s case.
The court heard earlier this week that the eight-year-old had been absent from school for a year before her death.
The mother told school staff who visited her home that the family was moving to New Zealand and the school notified the child safety department.
Child safety asked a private agency to engage with the mother following abuse claims around the same time but they were also told the family planned to move overseas. The last contact that government or private agencies had with the girl was 10 months before she died.
The Cairns principal, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said it was often difficult to find children who were absent for long periods as parents did not update contact details with the school.
However, Centrelink usually had that information.
The inquest, before Northern Coroner Jane Bentley, will conclude on Friday.