DOCS failed to find transient family in Hunter

Community Services Minister Pru Goward has called for a formal briefing about her department’s failure to find a transient family despite receiving repeated calls reporting concerns for its welfare.

The Department of Family and Community Services confirmed yesterday it had received three reports about the family between last November and January as they stayed at various locations across the Hunter.

The mother gave birth to her youngest child and only son in a ‘‘freebirth’’ at a makeshift hippie commune in Hunter bushland without any medical intervention.

Her husband, the boy’s father, has now been charged with the murder of the boy after the father and son fell into a river from a Queensland bridge on Saturday night.

The Newcastle Herald has learnt that the family, including four children and a heavily pregnant mother, started to call the Hunter home more than a month before the boy’s birth.

They remained in the Hunter until at least the end of January before continuing their transient life, where they slept in a truck and trailer, elsewhere.

The Herald understands that concerns were raised to several government agencies, including the Department of Family and Community Services, before the boy’s birth.

It included a report to the department on Christmas Day after one of the children had been missing overnight from a bush camp.

A spokeswoman confirmed yesterday the department had received three reports about the family between November and January.

‘‘Community Services’ caseworkers made all feasible attempts to contact the family, but were unsuccessful due to their transient lifestyle,’’ the spokeswoman said.

‘‘As part of our response to these reports, Community Services asked NSW Police to help locate the family.

‘‘After January, Community Services received no further reports about the family before the baby’s death.’’

Ms Goward said her department would release ‘‘any necessary documentation to Queensland police that may assist with their investigations’’ if it was requested.

‘‘The death of any child, particularly one so young, is a tragedy,’’ Ms Goward said.

‘‘At my request, the Department of Family and Community Services is providing me with a formal briefing.’’

A Hunter New England Health spokesman said there was no record of concerns being tabled to the Child Wellbeing Unit before the boy was born, despite the Herald being told it was contacted.

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