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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 4 Hansard (17 April) . . Page.. 1021..


CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT - MANDATORY REPORTING
Ministerial Statement

Debate resumed from 17 October 1995, on motion by Mr Stefaniak:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

MS REILLY (3.43): Mr Speaker, it is very heartening to see that the Government has presented this statement outlining the action it is taking that is going to lead to the introduction of mandatory reporting. Child abuse is a very grave and shameful crime in our community. It is something that, luckily, now we no longer ignore and pretend is not happening. It is good to see the Government taking action in this area. Before the introduction of mandatory reporting one thing is absolutely essential. We have to have training. It is good to see that there is a program outlined within this statement. But it is even more important that we have sufficient resources available after its introduction. There is no point in introducing mandatory reporting, training people, and then having no resources to deal with reports that come in. In the ACT, according to this statement, we have a fair idea of what will be the likely outcome of its introduction in terms of the number of reports. We are meeting the national average in terms of reporting now. So, we have a good idea of the size of the problem within the ACT. If we are going to introduce mandatory reporting, we have to have sufficient resources for action to be taken immediately after a report is received, so that the most appropriate investigation takes place as soon as possible. There is no point in a report on abuse coming in and then, six months later, there is an opportunity for someone to follow it up. That is why I cannot emphasise too much the importance of the need for resources after its introduction.

The ACT must also be prepared for some increase in reporting following all the publicity and action within New South Wales. The information and evidence coming before the Wood royal commission is likely to have some impact in the ACT as well, as we border New South Wales and as some of these people are likely to be in the ACT and may wish to take matters further. So we must be prepared for that as well. Unfortunately, the abuse of children does not happen to a timetable. We must guard against complacency that the abuse will not happen until we actually introduce mandatory reporting in June next year. I will be looking to the budget allocation for 1996-97 - because mandatory reporting comes in on 1 June - to provide adequate resources for managing the reporting system after it is introduced and looking to the budget system in future years. I look forward to receiving further reports on the success of the introduction of the training. Those comments aside, it is good to see some action on mandatory reporting being taken.

MR OSBORNE (3.46): Mr Speaker, I would like to join this debate only very briefly this afternoon. I have to say that I have had my speech prepared for about 12 months, I think. That is how long I have been waiting. I am just glad that we have finally got around to finishing this matter. As I have said, it has been on the notice paper for a fair bit of time.


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