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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (30 March) . . Page.. 1282..


MR WOOD: I am not going to go into details on this sort of question; I will give a general answer. In conversations with senior officers we determined that it would be appropriate to brief cabinet, and that is what happened.

MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Minister, when did you speak to Mr Stanhope about the need to convene this meeting, and what was his response?

MR WOOD: The formalities were such that it was obviously agreed, wasn't it?

Child protection

MRS BURKE: My question is to the Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services. On WIN news on Friday, 26 March and in today's Canberra Times it was announced that the Vardon inquiry concerning your department's flouting of the Children and Young People Act 1999 has had its deadline extended for several weeks until 7 May. Today's Canberra Times quotes Commissioner Vardon as saying, "There have been delays in accessing necessary information on children from departmental systems."Minister, why have there been delays in your department providing information to this inquiry, resulting in its being delayed for three weeks; and why have you failed in your responsibility to ensure that information is provided in a timely manner?

MS GALLAGHER: Commissioner Vardon contacted my office on, I think, Thursday evening and spoke to a member of my staff indicating that she would be seeking, through the Chief Minister, an extension of three weeks for her inquiry. She gave a number of reasons for this, one of which concerned the department's formal submission to her inquiry, which, I believe, was handed to her on 17 March. It is quite a substantial document. The Community Advocate's submission to the inquiry was handed in on, I believe, 19 March, two days later. So some very important submissions to the inquiry took some time to get to her.

As you are aware, I am briefed on this inquiry and on what is happening in child protection in the ACT several times a week. I know that you will not like this answer, but I can tell you that I have not failed in any duty to ensure that the department hands information over in a timely fashion. Part of what the inquiry is looking at is the systems that led to this failure to meet statutory obligations. I believe that some of the information at which the commissioner is looking and which, I suspect, will be subject to some findings, is views about the adequacy of systems in place to recall information that the commissioner needed. We have had, and you are aware of the pressure on child protection staff, up to 11 senior staff from the family services section of the department working with the commissioner on this as a special audit team. That in itself has presented challenges to family services in other areas, as you can imagine, while we go through a recruitment process. In the time that they have been responding to the commissioner, not only this submission, the department has also responded to all of the her formal requests for information, which total 55 questions in all. There is one matter outstanding, going back to correspondence concerning matters raised in 1996, but at the same time we are dealing with the whole range of day-to-day responsibilities of family


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