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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 2 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 358..

Children and Young People Amendment Bill 2006 (No 2)

Debate resumed from 12 December 2006, on motion by Ms Gallagher:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (11.36): The Liberal opposition supports the major thrust of the Children and Young People Amendment Bill 2006 (No 2), which is primarily seeking to facilitate better management and coordination of the operation of the youth detention system here in the ACT. I am sure my colleague Mr Seselja will expand on this shortly.

Today I wish to focus particularly on the new section to be inserted in the act, relating to prenatal reporting and the anticipation of abuse and neglect. The Liberal opposition offers cautious support, understanding the complexity and sensitivity of the reporting procedures and in turn the follow-on observation and care required for a woman whose child, when born, may need to be taken into the care and protection of the ACT government. This, no doubt, is a very difficult area to monitor and to act upon in relation to the reporting process. I note that other jurisdictions have enacted similar legislative measures to provide for clear guidelines and provisions to emerge on prenatal reporting.

Surely no government would wish to see child deaths occur. It is therefore crucial to allow any statutory child protection agencies to have the power to intervene in the early stages to ensure the best possible chance of preventing the injury or death of an unborn child. Quoting from page 3 of the minister's explanatory statement of December 2006, I note that the provisions will:

... enable the Chief Executive to provide, or arrange the provision of, voluntary support services to the pregnant woman and other family members who may be involved in the care of the child after birth, including for example the child's father.

The Liberal opposition supports any move to ensure that firstly the mother is offered the most suitable forms of care; that should in turn lead to the protection of an unborn child.

Naturally, the issue of a person's right to privacy may cause some concern. However, the government must surely have an overriding sense or duty of care to ensure that, whenever it is observed through a reporting process, a mother and an unborn child who face significant risk must be offered as many forms of care as the government can offer.

It would seem reasonable to intrude on some rights, given consideration of recent child deaths across Australia. Legislative measures that would allow for an early response to protecting unborn children need to be catered for so that a mother can be given early support, taking into account the need for the protection of the child.

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