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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 1735..

MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, I am pleased to announce today the Government's plan for the implementation of mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect in the ACT. Much has been made to date of the need to ensure that mandatory reporting is introduced in such a way that the child protection system is not overloaded, resulting by default in children being put at greater risk. A lot of comment has also been made on the fact that it is very difficult to assess the exact effect of training and mandating in terms of rises in notifications. Some expect the dramatic increases experienced in Victoria and New South Wales, yet we know that the reporting rate in the ACT is already on the national average. So we do not start with the low base Victoria, for example, had before they introduced mandatory reporting.

The approach I am about to outline is a graduated approach which will allow us to assess the impact on services and to respond to the impact before full implementation. In summary, the approach involves training all persons to be mandated in one region, assessing the impact of the training and responding to it, and then moving on to complete the process in the other regions in a staged fashion. The regions will equate to the health and community care catchment areas. This will allow us to take advantage of the work already under way with coordination of health and community services in the catchment areas. Mandating at the end of the process will obviously have some extra effect, but the experience of the other States is that it is the training itself that creates increased notifications. It has been shown that when people are trained to recognise the signs of child abuse and neglect they act very responsibly, purely out of their increased knowledge base. At the end of the training in the first region we will have the most accurate assessment yet of the effect of mandatory reporting we can expect to experience across the ACT, and we can respond to that effect, if need be, in budget terms.

The Belconnen-Gungahlin catchment area has been selected to start the implementation. Through consultation with all existing interagency groupings, a process will be undertaken, firstly, to identify the number of persons in the groups the legislation identifies to be mandated to be trained in the region - that is, how many doctors, dentists, nurses, police officers, teachers, school counsellors, public servants working in the child welfare area and licensed child-care providers will have to be trained; and, secondly, to clarify the particular training needs of these professional groups and devise methods of mixing the groupings in the training process. This mixing of groupings will encourage networking and interaction and will increase the various groups' knowledge and usage of the local service system. The particular training approach will then be devised, using materials and resources from other States where they are appropriate. This will probably involve a mixture of direct training of people to be mandated and the training of trainers within relevant organisations. The hospitals, for instance, may well be more suited to a train-the-trainer approach.

Government departments and non-government service providers affected by mandatory reporting will be expected to set up data collection processes to monitor changes in demand during and after this training program. The training in Belconnen-Gungahlin will be completed by 30 April 1996. Training in the second region will be completed by 30 September 1996, with the third region completed by mid-December 1996 and the final region by 30 April 1997. The exact order of these other regions will be decided at a later date. The Government will then mandate all professional groups by gazettal of subsection 103(2) of the Children's Services Act 1986, that is, on 1 June 1997.

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