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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 15 Hansard (Thursday, 15 December 2005) . . Page.. 4887 ..


except where the application would be contrary to the best interests of the child or young person. The best interests of the young person will be one of a number of principles to be applied when making decisions about young offenders.

The review identified that principles relating to participation of children and young people in decision-making required strengthening. In the area of care and protection, a new principle of helping families understand care and protection procedures is introduced. This principle guides decision makers’ action regarding consultation with and participation of children and young people and people with parental responsibility in decision-making. For any care and protection decision, the decision maker must make attempts to ensure that the child or young person, their legal representative and people with parental responsibility understand the nature of the decision and the decision-making process, can participate in the decision-making process, having their views and wishes heard, and understand the final decision after it is communicated to them.

The bill provides for strengthened representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the Children’s Services Council, through a requirement that at least one council member represent their interests. Placement decisions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people will be subject to an indigenous cultural plan. The purpose of the indigenous cultural plan is to preserve and enhance the child or young person’s identity as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

A new concept is introduced of a child or young person being at risk of abuse or neglect. This replaces the concept of likelihood of abuse or neglect and reflects contemporary child protection assessment of risk. The test will be where there is a significant risk of the child or young person being abused or neglected. Examples are included to highlight cases when the chief executive may decide a child or young person is at risk of abuse and neglect.

Attention has been given to the categories of persons required to report abuse of children and young people. The act will be clarified to ensure that public servants working with or personally providing services to children and young people and their families will be mandated to report. The current reporting regime requires all mandated reporters to report their suspicions of non-accidental physical injury and sexual abuse. The review identified that this can result in many mandated reporters in the same setting being required to report identical concerns for a child or young person. This frequently occurs in settings such as schools or hospitals. To avoid this, an exception to mandatory reporting will occur in such circumstances. If a person reasonably suspects someone else has already made a report about the same child or young person in relation to the same incident of abuse or neglect, they are exempt from submitting a report themselves. This will also provide a clearer picture as to the number of children and young people at risk by reducing the number of multiple reports.

Currently, all reports on children and young people for whom the chief executive has parental responsibility are required to be given to the Office of the Community Advocate. The intention of this provision was to ensure that there was oversight by the Office of the Community Advocate of reports and action in relation to abuse of children, for whom the chief executive already has responsibility. In practice, this has resulted in many reports being provided which do not involve significant care and protection concerns—for example, a young person absconding from placement for a short time. In


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