Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 8 Hansard (15 August) . . Page.. 2973 ..
with responsibility for the visitable place about any issues of concern that they hear or observe, giving those ministers valuable and direct insight into what is happening on the ground in these places.
Official visitors visit Bimberi and residential out of home care facilities for children and young people, the AMC, mental health facilities, accommodation for people with disability and accommodation for homeless people. There is a requirement for some official visitors to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, to better meet the needs of Indigenous people, who are over-represented in many visitable places.
As minister with responsibility for the Official Visitor Act, I am responsible for the operation of the scheme as a whole, but this scheme is relevant and important to many ministerial portfolios.
In 2017 the Justice and Community Safety Directorate conducted a review of the scheme, which involved consultation with official visitors, operational directorates and a range of community stakeholders. I would like to acknowledge the work of Ms Pam Jenkins in conducting the review. The review confirmed that the official visitor scheme is a valuable scheme and that official visitors are highly trusted by clients and service providers alike. I would like to thank all our official visitors for the important work that they do. I would also like to thank the Public Trustee and Guardian, who has managed the administration of the scheme fairly and efficiently.
The review did identify opportunities to improve the operation of the scheme, particularly in increasing the consistency in the way that official visitors work in different areas, the reports that they make and the level of support that we provide to them. The bill makes a range of changes to address the issues identified.
The bill was developed in consultation with the official visitor working group. Members include the ACT official visitors, representatives of all operational directorates as well as the ACT Human Rights Commission, and the Public Trustee and Guardian. I would also like to thank the working group members for their time and careful consideration of the bill.
I will now discuss some of the key amendments proposed by the bill. The bill amends the Official Visitor Act to clarify the legislative functions of official visitors. The review found that there was a lack of shared understanding about the official visitors' role across all areas. The review recommended that the Official Visitor Act be amended to more clearly set out the functions of an official visitor, including their role in highlighting systemic issues.
The bill amends the Official Visitor Act to state that the functions of official visitors include visiting a place and meeting entitled people at the place, monitoring conditions and services at the place, investigating and seeking to resolve complaints from or on behalf of entitled people at the place, identifying and reporting on systemic issues adversely affecting entitled people at the place, referring complaints to other investigative entities where appropriate, and reporting to the ministers as required.