Young Broome boy who took his own life had 30 caseworkers in just over a decade

Grace HendryThe West Australian
Department of Communities in Broome.
Camera IconDepartment of Communities in Broome. Credit: Google

A coronial inquest into the suicide of a young boy has been told he had 30 caseworkers assigned to him in just over a decade and “needed a sense of continuity.”

The young boy, referred to as “Child J” made the decision to take his own life at just 15-years-old, while under the care of the Department of Communities in Broome in April 2017.

The three-day inquest heard from department representatives, healthcare workers and other agencies to investigate whether opportunities were missed which could have saved the child’s life.

Coroner Sarah Linton heard Child J was taken from his family and placed in foster care at just two-years-old and had various medial and behavioural problems including Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


The inquest heard Child J was on and off medication his entire life and was referred for a long-term mental health assessment at Princess Margaret Hospital in 2009, which the department refused to endorse due to concerns over his medication.

After a contentious meeting between the department case worker and Child J’s foster family, which was described as “like dealing with divorced parents,” the department eventually agreed to admit him.

However, the inquest heard further treatment was abandoned soon after when Child J was reunified with his mother, which also caused his behaviour to deteriorate in the months following.

The Coroner heard for a period of about 17 months across 2009 to 2011, Child J was not engaging in mental health interventions, during which time his stay with his mother broke down.

After this, Child J was put into a residential foster care placement, with a family who had a high care burden and were already attempting to manage four children.

The placement broke down in 2013, during which time Child J had made attempts to self harm and had suicidal thoughts.

The inquest heard Child J dropped off the radar completely when he was sent to live with his father in Carnarvon, during which time he stopped taking his medication.

Throughout the inquest, Department of Communities lawyers were adamant Child J refused to engage with programs and treatments regularly offered to him.

The inquest also heard Child J did not like taking his medication and felt “ashamed” to be on them.

In 2016, a year before his death, Child J returned to Broome to stay with his aunty, where he attended school and seemed to be on the straight and narrow.

While in Broome, Child J was beginning to settle into a routine, but suffered a break up with his girlfriend and months later, took his own life.

On the final day of the inquest, Coroner Linton addressed the inquest and said Child J was described as a kind young man who wanted to be with his family.

“Perhaps he did not have the emotional resilience to cope with the trauma he experienced as a young person,” she said.

“Sometimes a young person has suffered trauma that can not be fixed by the time they reach the department.”

Coroner Linton said it was clear all involved had the best intentions.

“It is clear how much people involved genuinely cared and tried their best,” she said.

“It is hard to see what more could have been done.”

The lawyers were given until July 16 to finalise their submissions, with Coroner Linton expected to complete the case by August.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails