Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 6 Hansard (17 June) . . Page.. 1706..
MR WOOD (continuing):
Parents will have to apply for fee assistance, and this will be subject to a means test. Families with two parents working - they are the sorts of families that use these centres - will not have to have a very high income in order to miss out on any financial assistance. In order to claim fee assistance, parents will have to pay fees up front - a difficult task. I am worried that, if fees increase, some parents may withdraw their children and leave them to fend for themselves. There could be more latchkey children. I do not think that is the sort of society we want our children to live in. Young unsupervised children can quickly get drawn into undesirable situations. As a society, we should not be abandoning our responsibilities towards our children. If centres do manage to contain their fees, the other area in which costs could be reduced is in the quality of care offered. For example, I know of centres that offer nutritious afternoon tea, followed by craft activities. That may not be possible.
As for the claim in Ms Moylan's letter that Jenny Macklin, the shadow Minister, supports the changes, I have contacted Ms Macklin's office and have been assured that she has been carefully quoted out of context. While the Labor Party does support regulation of the number of new child-care places and a reduction in the number of hours of non-work-related care, it does not support the withdrawal of the operational subsidies. At least three of the other organisations named in Ms Moylan's letter have the same position and would also object to being quoted as supporting those changes. Quality child care is under attack from the Federal Liberals. What will the local Liberal Government do to protect it?
MR MOORE (6.38): Mr Speaker, because at the request of members of the Assembly I was not in the chamber this morning, I missed the opportunity to join the Assembly in apologising to the Ngunnawal people and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the hurt and distress inflicted as a result of the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families, and I would like to add my voice to that of other members of the Assembly as expressed in the terms of the motion that was passed by the Assembly this morning.
I remember when I was young, perhaps 12 years old, my family actually discussing the very issue of whether it was to the benefit of Aboriginal children to be taken from their parents and to be in orphanages. Indeed, I remember the conclusion being drawn that it was to the benefit of these children. I can remember it very clearly. I can remember feeling very uncomfortable about it and having my discomfort eased by my parents and other people saying that they would be brought closer to God because they would be in orphanages of the particular religion that was part of my family upbringing.
It is interesting to me that such an awful thing was done for very high motives. When we look back and we take things out of historical context, sometimes we do not understand people's motives. Nevertheless, in spite of the motives, very awful things were done. That is why it is that I am happy to be part of this apology for the abhorrent practice of forced separation. I cannot comprehend how people in my broad family circle were not able to put themselves in the situation of seeing their own children taken from them.