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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 2447..

Children and Young People Bill 2008

[Cognate bill:

Children and Young People (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2008]

Debate resumed from 6 March 2008, on motion by Ms Gallagher:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SPEAKER: I understand it is the wish of the Assembly to debate this bill cognately with executive business order of the day No 2, the Children and Young People (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2008. That being the case, I remind members that in debating the Children and Young People Bill 2008 they may also address their remarks to the Children and Young People (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2008.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.42): There is no more important duty that a community has than to look after its children, and its future by so doing. I would say, as a parent, that this is a sacred trust. It is one that, as a community, we must take seriously, and as a legislature we must take it extremely seriously. I suppose that a tome of some 750 pages indicates to some extent some measure of the seriousness with which we deal with the welfare of our children and young people.

I suppose it is timely that we are debating this issue when, across the nation, we are seeing a range of cases that cause the community to question what we are doing to our children. They cause governments everywhere to reassess the way we manage the administration of systems that are aimed at helping children who do not have the best start in life. Our aim should be to provide children with the best start in life. Sometimes, unfortunately, a stable and safe home is not what every child comes into this world or goes through their formative years experiencing.

One of the things that we have to be absolutely vigilant about, in dealing with the welfare of our children and our young people, is the attempts we make to ensure that the management of the systems that we put in place are seamless and really do meet the needs of our young people. We have to ask, after all the time and effort that we put into this, and as it is now nine years down the path since we had the passage of the original Children and Young People Bill: are things any better for our children than they were in 1999? I think the jury is out on that, Mr Speaker. I think that, in the climate that we are experiencing at the moment, the community is seriously questioning how effective governments are in dealing with children at risk.

The big question is: has anything changed and have things got better? While I do not propose to answer that question today, it is one that we must contemplate. In passing this legislation today, we must do so not just with the intention of passing a big fat piece of legislation. Big fat pieces of legislation will not, by themselves, make the lot of children better.

This is a big chance for the community as a whole—not just the legislature and not just the people entrusted by the government to carry out this legislation, but the whole

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