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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (30 July) . . Page.. 3045..


Child protection

MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support. I understand, Minister, that at least 10 police officers raided a house in Kaleen on the weekend, on the advice from family services that a baby had been murdered. It seems that the basis of the raid was a text message to family services and that your department did little to get more information before they passed the message on to the police.

As it transpires, Minister, it was a vexatious message and caused great embarrassment, to say the least, to the householder who was having a quiet family lunch when the police raided. The gentleman whose house was raided is feeling considerably unsettled by the incident. It shows the impact of failed leadership at the top on the effectiveness of family services workers.

Minister, while it is important that family services act promptly on serious reports, it is also important that some effort is made to verify the information before the police are called in. What investigation did family services do into the reliability of the allegation delivered by text message before the police were called to raid the house in Kaleen?

MS GALLAGHER: Yes, I have sought advice on that matter, Mrs Dunne. I think it is quite difficult in terms of giving information, but my understanding is that there were a number of calls made to family services in relation to that issue.

On the third or fourth call-and I want to be careful about what I say here because it could be a matter that goes before the courts; it is a matter that family services have had some dealings with-or the final call it was reported to police that the allegations were escalating and family services had significant concerns about that and they had to respond to the allegations they had received. From the information I have, they responded appropriately by calling in the sexual assault and child abuse team to go and investigate the calls that they had received on the after-hours service.

Children-playgroups

MS DUNDAS: Mr Speaker, my question, through you, is also to the minister for family support. Minister, considering that there are 12,000 children of preschool age in the ACT who are currently not in preschool, organised child care or playgroups, does the government have a target for the number of new playgroups that it would like to see established, perhaps over the next three years, to give these children an opportunity to interact and learn with other children before attending formal schooling?

MS GALLAGHER: We do not have a specific target. I guess we promote and fund the Playgroups Association to provide playgroups to people in the community, particularly those parents who stay at home because they are the people who seem to access, on a part-time basis, playgroup services.

I know there has been some concern with the playgroups about their ability to meet demand for their services or to continue at the level that they have been providing those services. It is an extremely valuable service provided by playgroups in terms of


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