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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3755..


MR SMYTH (continuing):

of the ACT Legislative Assembly has risen through the ranks and is now the clerk of the ACT Assembly. Tom, we congratulate you.

Internet-use at schools

Belconnen Australian Rules Football Club

MR STEFANIAK (6.03): I add my congratulations to you, Tom.

I rise for two purposes. The first is a rather disturbing incident in a school which a constituent brought to my attention. I think he has brought it to the attention of the minister as well. I will not name the school. It concerns a year 3 class-my constituent states they were eight to 10-year-olds-which was using the internet to do its work.

Apparently, the work involved the Google website and the project was to find websites that described animals in Vietnam. The children apparently entered the words "animals"and "Vietnam"into the search engine, as one would expect, to carry out a search. Included in the websites that came up, however, was one which basically referred to young females and bestiality. The children did not look at that website. They called the teacher, who turned it off.

Apparently, the problem was that the teacher and the principal did not advise the parents of this but, when the kids got home, some of them must have discussed it with their parents because my constituent indicated the problem to me and indicated that at least one other parent had raised the matter. That other parent had apparently phoned the school and the principal and was not particularly satisfied with the response, which he or she thought was a little bit blase.

My constituent is very concerned that children were actually able to access such a website and has concerns about how the school handled it internally. Apparently, the parent who rang up was concerned that the response he or she got from the school was anger that the parents had queried what the school had done. My constituent also thought there should be at least some counselling or some explanation to the kids in the class, to address what had actually happened. I also understand that my constituent has taken it up with the minister.

I am very concerned about that. I understand that there are net filters to protect people from such things and that, in fact, this particular type of website, the Google website, has those very filters. I do not quite understand why those were not actually applied in this instance.

I can recall that, when the internet was beginning to be used in schools, one of the big concerns was that kids inadvertently might be able to access pretty horrible things such as these. I thought there were a number of steps being taken by the department and the schools just to ensure that this did not occur and to ensure that the schools did in fact use the net filters. I certainly raise that in the house as a problem.

I think it is important that the minister not only sort out that problem with the department and indeed the school concerned, to allay the fears of those parents who are obviously concerned, but that she also stresses to all schools that this can happen. Indeed, teachers


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