Grandparents of Mason Parker, Sue and John Sandeman want to help children who are being abused. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Grandparents of Mason Parker, Sue and John Sandeman want to help children who are being abused. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Murdered toddler’s grandparents push for change

The ongoing pain of losing their grandchild has spurred John and Sue Sandeman to fight for children in danger.

Their grandson, Mason Parker, was just 17 months when his mother's then-partner, Troy William Reed, brutally murdered him.

Nine years after his death, the Sandeman's still want to do everything in their power to stop more children from suffering the same fate as their grandson.

Mason Parker was murdered in April 2011.
Mason Parker was murdered in April 2011.

Just days before his death, his daycare took photos of bruises all over his body but failed to report their concerns to authorities.

When he died in Townsville on April 16, 2011 Mason had a 17cm skill fracture, more than 50 bruises on his abdomen and back, internal injuries and a ruptured bowl.

Mason's death has stared an almost decade-long battle to protect children at risk of abuse.

For years, the Sandeman's advocated for Mason's Law - a law which made it mandatory for childcare workers to report suspected abuse.

This followed Queensland Law Reform Commission review into mandatory reporting laws spurred by Mason's death.

In 2015, the Sandeman's had a small win when the Queensland Government voted to support Mason's law but now, Mr Sandeman says more needs to be done.

Deeply disturbed by the number of child abuse reports the Townsville Child Protection Unit receives each day and the more than 1400 substantiated cases of child abuse dealt with by the Department of Child Safety in a 12-month period, Mr Sandeman said someone needs to be held accountable.

"If a captain of a ship loses containers off his ship, he can be charged with neglect," Mr Sandeman said.

"Why, when a child is known to child services, why isn't the person involved in the case (prosecuted) if a child gets furthers injured?

"The government puts the procedures in place for the workers to follow … it falls back on the government in charge, why aren't they charged with neglect?"

Grandparents of Mason Parker, Sue and John Sandeman holding a photo of the child. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Grandparents of Mason Parker, Sue and John Sandeman holding a photo of the child. Picture: Alix Sweeney

This follows the Liberal National Party's plan to complete overhaul the Department of Child Safety to create the Child Protection Force and the report into the death of another toddler, Mason Jet Lee.

Mr Sandeman said in too many circumstances, children were being left in dangerous situations.

The grandfather said legislators should consult with the families of abused children to help inform child protection measures.

"The most important thing in everything is that the child is in a safe environment," Mr Sandeman said.

"We have to get out and talk to people … talk to them, not the experts, the experts don't know what to do."

Mr Sandeman said there were too many children in this situation, and the husband and wife would do everything they could to help them.

"Too many kids are getting murdered and abused," he said.

"I wouldn't wish it (this situation) on my worst enemy.

"My wide is on so much medication to keep her going, we've not only lost a grandson, but we've lost a daughter. It's been torture."

The State Government was contacted for comment.

 

 

Mason Jet Lee

Coroner Jane Bentley recently issued a scathing rebuke of the Department of Child Safety officers involved in Mason Jet Lee's case.

"It is difficult to find any step taken in this case that was carried out in accordance with policies and procedures and correctly documented," the coroner said.

In 2016 Mason's stepfather Andrew William O'Sullivan struck the neglected boy so hard that his organs ruptured and left him to die a slow and painful death over days, refusing to seek help. Mason's mother Anne Maree Lee and O'Sullivan were each sentenced to nine years imprisonment over the 21-month-old toddler's manslaughter.

Following the release of the coroner's report, current Child Safety Minister Di Farmer said her department was a very different agency to the 2016 Child Safety Department.

"The 16 recommendations contained in the three reviews into Mason's death have been accepted and implemented by the Palaszczuk government including better information sharing between agencies, better internal review processes and cultural change," she said.

 

 

READ DI FARMER'S FULL RESPONSE

 

There have been significant changes to Child Safety in Queensland since 2011.

I want to thank Mason's grandparents for their campaign and vigilance which resulted in important changes to the Palaszczuk Government's Child Safety Act in 2016.

In what is known as Mason's Law, under the Child Safety Act it became compulsory for childcare workers, family day care and teachers to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.

Mason's grandparents flew to Brisbane from Townsville to witness Mason's Law pass into legislation from Parliament's public gallery.

It was understandably a very emotional time for the family, and they have every right to be very proud of their efforts in ensuring mandatory reporting was enshrined in legislation.

I welcome the input of Mason's grandparents on the protection of vulnerable children and intend to follow up with John and Sue in the coming days.

Mandatory reporting now accounts for just over 50 per cent of all notifications to Child Safety.

The number of parents who are not willing or able to look after their children is alarming, as is the demand for services and complexity of cases reported to Child Safety.

Child Safety receives one call every four minutes about a child suspected of being at risk of harm.

That's why the Palaszczuk Government has significantly increased the Child Safety budget over the last five years.

We're spending $1.3 billion on Child Safety this year alone.

And by the end of next year, the Palaszczuk Government we will have employed 500 additional frontline Child Safety staff.

Child Safety, police, health professionals, schools and early childhood centres work together to share information on potentially vulnerable children and families for investigation and early intervention.

It is our responsibility to look after vulnerable children because every child has a right to feel safe.

The Government makes no apology for taking a child into care when parents are unwilling or unable to provide appropriate care and protection for their child.

Among the biggest challenges we face are domestic and family violence and the drug Ice.

The number of children being removed from their homes because their parents are using Ice has increased drastically by more than 30 per cent in the last two years.

Five years ago, cases involving Ice abuse were rare, now 37 percent of cases state-wide include Ice addiction.

Ice is the reason the Palaszczuk Government in 2016 introduced mandatory, random drug testing of parents with vulnerable children.

Since July 1, 2019, Child Safety has processed 8,000 drug tests.

It's also one of the reasons the Palaszczuk Government announced a $100 million Action on Ice initiative, to cut supply and help parents to break their addiction.

 

Originally published as Murdered toddler's grandparents push for change

Mason John Parker.
Mason John Parker.

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