Page 3391 - Week 10 - Thursday, 20 October 2022

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The bill’s amendments allow a degree of flexibility in the background screening and assessment to ensure that the most appropriate and suitable assessment is used to assess the unique circumstances of carers, and of children and young people. For example, there are occasions in which background screening occurs in the context of an existing relationship between the proposed carer and the child or young person. Kinship carers are often significant people in the life of a child or young person, and there is a degree of familiarity between the carer and the child or young person, based on the existing relationship.

In addition, the amendments recognise the longstanding barriers faced by applicants from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background. These include the inability to obtain records and appropriate levels of identification, issues with literacy and a lack of support services to assist with the administrative process.

This bill allows for greater flexibility between the territory’s two pieces of legislation, while continuing to deliver on the government’s commitment to provide strong safeguards in our community. It makes a strong statement that the best interests of vulnerable people are the paramount consideration in any decisions under the scheme, and that decisions must take into account the safety, welfare and protection of vulnerable people.

While these amendments take a balanced, culturally appropriate approach to safeguarding the approval of carers, I cannot overstate the importance of identifying individuals who pose a risk to children and vulnerable people and ensuring their exclusion from the scheme. The requirement to maintain working with vulnerable people registration continues for all individuals seeking to work with children in out of home care. The amendments allow consideration of exceptional circumstances only where cultural and historical barriers may prevent an individual from applying for a working with vulnerable people registration.

I am confident that this bill strikes the right balance between protecting children from unacceptable risk and ensuring that appropriate screening arrangements are applied to ensure that our children and young people are able to maintain connection to family, culture and community. These amendments demonstrate continued efforts by the government and community to work collaboratively to reduce the likelihood of harm against children and young people in the ACT.

I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Kikkert) adjourned to the next sitting.

Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2022

Mr Barr, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

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