Reform to out-of-home care system in Queensland extends care age from 18 to 21

24 August 2022

Partnership with Home Stretch

Home Stretch logoIn 2022, the UQ Pro Bono Centre partnered with Home Stretch, a group of concerned organisations and individuals that believe an option should be available for young people in the out-of-home care system to remain in care until the age of 21.

In most States in Australia, the State support ends when a young person turns 18 years of age. Home Stretch advocate that poor outcomes for some young people could be avoided if they were not required to leave the care system on or before the age of 18. Whilst some jurisdictions in Australia had increased the age to 21, at the time the Pro Bono Centre and our students started work with Home Stretch, Queensland was yet to do so.

In March 2022, three UQ Law Students, Chelsea Clark, Cliff Mei and Lily Anderson started a project with Home Stretch where they were tasked with carrying out research, literature reviews, and statutory interpretation to determine where arguments could be raised under the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) to strengthen the Home Stretch advocacy campaign.

Care age extended to 21 in Queensland in June 2022

Two-months into the project, on 18 June 2022, the Queensland Government announced they were adopting the life-changing reform to extend the care age in Queensland to 21.

The National Chair of Home Stretch, Paul McDonald said about the extension:

“This legacy decision made by the Queensland Government will see demonstrable reductions in homelessness and offending, and equivalent increases in mental wellbeing, as well as employment and education engagement. Everyone wins with this reform.”

What is out-of-home care?

Out-of-home care refers to various services which provide care for young people who may be placed away from their family home due to safety or family crisis reasons. The children are legally placed in the care of the State. In Queensland, out-of-home care is governed by the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) and administered by the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs. Ending care at 18 meant that State-funded living arrangements would cease, and the young person is no longer able to access other out-of-home care support services.

The comprehensive report (PDF, 470.6 KB) researched and compiled by Chelsea, Cliff and Lily provided, inter alia, a detailed review of the relationship between the out-of-home care system and the Human Rights Act in Queensland, particularly the impact of human rights for young people left vulnerable and isolated at 18. The students drew on the experiences and application of similar laws in comparable jurisdictions domestically and internationally. The final report provides an insightful overview and interpretation of the Human Rights Act particularly in its discussion on the intent of the legislation, and as it applies to vulnerable young people specifically.

Asked about his experience undertaking this project, Cliff Mei said:

“Being a small part in Home Stretch’s agenda to improve state care systems has been an incredibly enriching and rewarding experience. Over the course of 8 weeks, I have learnt and appreciated the importance of adequate care for young people and have gained a better understanding of the unfortunate realities that many individuals face when they transition from out-of-home care to independence at 18 years of age. I am glad and very grateful that our work will benefit many, and hopefully allow future out-of-home care individuals to be able to receive support and call a place home until the age of 21.’ 

Whilst the finalisation of the report happened immediately prior to the Queensland Government announcement, Home Stretch have and are continuing to use the findings in the report in their advocacy for reform in New South Wales. Furthermore, the students report, and recommendations will be used by Home Stretch and their partners in detailed policy discussions regarding the finalisation of the legislative reform in Queensland.

This is a significant contribution from Chelsea, Cliff and Lily who undertook this task during their University studies on a pro-bono basis, without any academic credit or reward, and as part of their continued contribution to service as future members of the legal profession.

A final message from Chelsea Clark about the importance of advocacy groups like Home Stretch and the impact of the Human Rights Act in Queensland.

“Through participating in this research project, I have gained valuable insight into the operation of human rights law in Queensland and the potential it has to positively impact vulnerable groups within our community. I especially enjoyed collaborating with my peers to understand the connections we could make between the Out-Of-Home-Care system and the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld).

Overall, writing this report made clear that Home Stretch's advocacy is vital for the protection of the human rights of young people.” 

Chelsea Clark

The UQ Pro Bono Centre, Chelsea Clark, Cliff Mei and Lily Anderson thank Home Stretch for allowing us to contribute to its vital work and we support you in your advocacy to effect positive reform in New South Wales.


About the students

Chelsea Clark is a fifth-year student studying a dual Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Arts degree (majors in Spanish and International Relations) at the University of Queensland. Chelsea is also a member of the Pro Bono Centre’s Domestic and Family Violence Law Education & Outreach Program.

Cliff Mei is studying a dual Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Queensland and is a committed member of the UQ Pro Bono Centre. 

Lily (Matilda) Anderson is a third year law student who was at the University of Queensland on an exchange from Edinburgh University for Semester 1 2022.