Page 896 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 29 March 2023

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This aligns with the original proposed policy intent of the bill to ensure the minister can declare that a provision of a law in any other jurisdiction to be a corresponding provision for the purposes of that section.

The government amendments also include consequential amendments that should have been included in the original bill. A supplementary explanatory statement has been circulated to members and will be tabled to provide further detail. I will table that in the detail stage.

Importantly, the bill’s amendments refine how the scheme applies to individuals seeking to work with children in the out-of-home care system, as both Mrs Kikkert and Mr Braddock have talked about. Carers are a vital part of this system, providing a safe, supportive and nurturing environment for children and young people in out-of-home care arrangements.

Kinship carers have an especially important role in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to maintain critical connections to family, culture and community. The bill’s amendments ensure the most appropriate and suitable approach is used to assess the unique circumstances of carers and of children and young people by using the most suitable background-screening and assessment processes.

This bill continues to deliver the government’s commitments to provide effective safeguards in our community. It remains clear that the best interests of vulnerable people are the paramount consideration in any decisions under the scheme and that all decisions must consider the safety, welfare and protection of vulnerable people. These amendments take a balanced, culturally appropriate approach to safeguarding carer approval without compromising the important task of effectively identifying individuals who pose a risk to children and vulnerable people.

The bill makes administrative amendments to better support a more streamlined administration of the Working with Vulnerable People Scheme. These amendments revise the current disqualifying offences list to only include relevant offences, extend the length of appointment of working with vulnerable people independent advisers from three years to five years, and clarify that court interpreters do not require Working with Vulnerable People registrations, as Mr Braddock has noted.

I would like to assure the Assembly of the primacy of the rights of vulnerable people in the ACT. The provisions in this amendment bill will uphold and indeed strengthen the safety and wellbeing of all vulnerable people in the ACT. This bill supports the protection of children from unacceptable risk while ensuring appropriate screening arrangements are applied in a sensitive way to ensure children and young people are supported to maintain connection to family, culture and community.

In closing, I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety for its thoughtful consideration of the bill, through its legislative scrutiny role outlined through report No. 23 of 15 November 2022.

The amendments demonstrate continued collaboration between the government and community to reduce the likelihood of harm to children and vulnerable people in the ACT. I am pleased to commend the bill to the Assembly.


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