Page 1748 - Week 06 - Thursday, 3 June 2021

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Anglicare’s ground-breaking TEACHaR program and updating the Assembly by the last sitting day in October.

I am not satisfied, however, with the minister’s amendment to paragraph (3)(a). The minister has called it a minor amendment, but to me it is not. Instead of ensuring that residential care and youth justice staff receive the ongoing training and support that they have asked for, the government is now promising only to explore ways to improve the support available. To be blunt, exploring something is far different from ensuring that it happens. As many Canberrans have come to understand for themselves, talk from this Labor-Greens coalition government is cheap. Action is dear.

Here is one example from many. Just over four years ago, I brought a motion before this Assembly calling on the government to “recognise the importance of ensuring that decisions regarding a child’s placement and care plans be subject to external review”. There is that important word again: “ensure”. When the minister amended my motion in 2017, Minister Stephen-Smith removed the word “ensure” then too. This government has an aversion to ensuring that anything happens, it seems.

What has happened in the intervening four years? My call for an external review of child protection decisions now has the support of literally every stakeholder in the ACT. All four members of the territory’s Human Rights Commission penned an open letter declaring that, without this change, the ACT government is in violation of its own human rights legislation.

But do we have an external review process yet? Heck, no. It is, I have been told, still in the process. Meanwhile, kids’ families are struggling to fight for their rights. Based on such experiences, Minister Stephen-Smith’s amendment raises valid concerns. Will anything meaningful actually happen? Will kids in care continue to not receive support in their learning because this government is vomiting out words of declarations and not words of commitment? Will carers continue to watch helplessly as they are not given appropriate training as a matter of urgency?

This matter is urgent. Imagine a school with students in two classrooms who are partially or fully disengaged from school. The principal will not explore but will ensure as a matter of urgency how to provide these kids the support that they need. But in a silent pandemic of disengaged kids in our residential care, this government is taking its time to give them support. Shame on it for its laziness and stubbornness. The minister talks about making it broad with her amendment. Victoria’s TEACHaR program was expanded to kids in out of home care last year for the first time. It took them years to get to where they are at currently. I know how this government works. It would not do a broad TEACHaR program across Canberra immediately. It is too hard for it.

That is why I gave them a spoonful of the pie, because we know that research has shown that, across Australia, kids in residential care are at particular risk of poor educational outcomes. So giving them a spoonful or a bite of the pie will work better for the government because that is all that they can do. But I will be happy if the government can actually take the whole pie—a broad TEACHaR program across Canberra—and prove me wrong. I would love to see commitment from this

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