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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 2 Hansard (4 March) . . Page.. 721..


MR CORNWELL (continuing):

23 September 2003. The first two related to mandatory reporting, and I will come back to that in a moment. The last one was certainly a case of direct child abuse and neglect.

All of these indicate that the committee was concerned. We raised the problem. The chairman of the committee said that perhaps people did not go up quite enough. May I say that we identified the statutory obligations in recommendation 39. It reads:

The committee recommends that the Government ensure all performance contracts with senior staff of the Department of Education, Youth and Family Services require compliance with statutory obligations in order to obtain a satisfactory appraisal.

It is not just a requirement to report; it is also a requirement to thoroughly investigate. Unfortunately, the failure to fulfil this obligation is twofold. Either it is not followed up enough, and hence we have this problem of child death and child abuse that has not been sufficiently reported; or it has been followed up too enthusiastically. I would like to give an example of both. The minister might like to listen.

Ms Gallagher: I am listening.

MR CORNWELL: Thank you. If matters are not followed up, it comes down to this question of mandatory reporting. This has been a concern of mine for some time. On 4 March last year I put out a media release asking why-about the effectiveness of mandatory reporting in ACT Family Services. As already stated, I have placed a number of questions on the notice paper.

I asked another question-and was replied to by the minister on 22 December last year-that arose from a Stateline program about a child who died subsequent to presenting with bruising and other indications of hurt. My first question was: how many people who were professionally mandated examined but did not report the child's condition under mandatory reporting law? The answer the minister provided me was that the coroner did not specifically identify those mandated persons, whom she considered should have reported. In the coroner's report she stated, "Some eight persons who were mandated to report failed to do so."That is a disgrace. Those people bring shame to the profession they are members of. The matter should be followed up.

Ms Gallagher: It has been.

MR CORNWELL: Following from your interjection of "It has been,"I would be delighted to hear some more information at some time. In fact, I would be happy to put the question on the notice paper, if you would like me to do so.

MR SPEAKER: Order, members! Mr Cornwell, direct your comments through the chair.

MR CORNWELL: Sorry, Mr Speaker. But the fact is that there is no point in having a requirement for mandatory reporting if people do not report-and, if they do not report, no action is taken against them. What is the purpose of having such legislation? We make a big thing about it, and then we do not follow through. It is simply not good enough.


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