Page 894 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 29 March 2023

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I sought a ministerial briefing on this bill late last year. I was advised that, in practice, this issue has indeed occurred before. An applicant who had committed a class A disqualifying offence had applied to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a merits review of their rejected application to the Working with Vulnerable People Scheme. I also inquired about the extra powers provided to the director-general to defer the Working with Vulnerable People registration requirement for approved carers in exceptional circumstances. I was interested in the kind of criteria that guide these types of decisions. I was advised that, in practice, registration requirements are deferred in cases where a carer who is otherwise suitable is unable to provide the necessary identity documents to be registered.

Making sure that our background checking procedures are unified across the country, up to date and in line with the royal commission recommendations is critical in the effective operation of our Working with Vulnerable People Scheme, so that our children and young people, as well as other at-risk members of the ACT community, are supported by people who promote and prioritise their safety. Currently, as the legislation stands, there are operational issues that unnecessarily exhaust public resources, and it is about time that they were addressed.

I look forward to seeing the improved operation of the scheme following the implementation of the legislative improvements being proposed today. I am pleased to commend this bill to the Assembly.

MR BRADDOCK (Yerrabi) (4.26): The Working with Vulnerable People Scheme is an important part of the ACT system for keeping children and vulnerable people safe. The scheme aims to reduce the risk of harm or neglect of vulnerable people in the ACT, and it requires those who work or volunteer with vulnerable people, including children, to have a background check and be registered.

The Greens welcome this bill, which provides additional clarity on Working with Vulnerable People assessment processes, supporting the territory’s alignment with national standards and obligations, and allowing consideration of the unique circumstances of carers in the out-of-home care context. This bill will allow children to be placed in the care of people who have a familiar relationship with them, using the Children and Young People Act, rather than the working with vulnerable people act, subject to meeting the reasonable criteria that are set out.

The suitability assessment process focuses on the principles of screening practice that are culturally responsive, relationship based and trauma informed. Focusing on these principles ensures that the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration in the decision-making to provide approval to carers.

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 our children and young people are able to maintain connection to family, culture and community.

The bill will allow the recognition of First Nations traditional kinship where white law might historically deny it. It ensures that traditional kinship is no longer excluded

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