Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2474..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
The government is working closely with mobile phone providers and telecommunications carriers and, for the first time since Gungahlin was established, a proposal for a multimillion dollar telephone exchange has now been approved by Telstra. They are ready to begin. The government has given its approval for the direct sale of the land adjacent to the joint emergency services complex in Gungahlin. That will get under way and be completed, I am advised by Telstra, by the middle of next year. That means that Gungahlin residents will get the high-speed broadband internet access they need, and they deserve it.
MS DUNDAS: My question is to the Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services. Minister, a new policy has been released regarding volunteering procedures for working with children and young people. You wrote to all members in this place, providing us with a copy of this new policy. In New South Wales and Queensland, it is mandatory for all volunteers who have access to children and young people to be screened for any history of criminal acts, such as violence, sexual offences and the possession of child pornography. Why is it that, in the ACT, we do not have screening of all volunteers?
MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Dundas for the question. The volunteering policy I recently sent to all members was developed through intensive consultations with various education stakeholders and stakeholders who work with children in the ACT. The volunteering policy was a long time in the making and, once it was finalised, there was broad agreement about what it contained.
The approach the department has taken with that policy has been that-I forget the actual wording of the policy but it was clear in the letter-where there are situations where volunteers will be in the presence of teachers or other personnel within a school, the need to screen via a police check is not necessary. However, the situations where we would require mandatory screening through police checks are where volunteers are not supervised by personnel employed through the school and would be in direct contact with children.
I believe those discussions were quite considered, with both the department and other stakeholders. The agreement we have come to is to take a less scary approach in order to avoid discouraging volunteers. Schools rely heavily on volunteers to augment services in schools. We don't want to dissuade people and say that, to get involved with a school, they must undergo a police check-although the majority of people would have no issue with that.
There would be situations where teachers and other school personnel were present, and the volunteer would be under direct supervision, so that, when in contact with school personnel, the situation would not arise. It acknowledges, however, that, where volunteers may be alone with young people, it is very necessary. That is the basis of the policy.
MS DUNDAS: I thank the minister for her answer. I understand it is the principal, not a trained child protection worker, who makes the decisions as to suitable tasks for