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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 3 Hansard (30 March) . . Page.. 850..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

any unsafe, improper or unlawful practices by government or non-government institutions charged with children's care and/or education and considered the extent to which redress could be sought or given.

The Senate inquiry heard from many people who had been in care during these years and who experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect at the hands of their supposed carers. The inquiry also heard from people who continue to suffer from their experiences of abuse. To those now living in the ACT who were in care as children and who experienced abuse and neglect and ongoing emotional physical pain and distress, the ACT government acknowledges their experiences and expresses to them its deep sadness and regret for their suffering.

The first report from the Senate, Forgotten Australians, focused on Australians who experienced institutional care as children between the 1920s and 1970s. It investigates experiences of those abused while in care and the role of state governments in administering those charitable and church-run institutions that provided such care. The second report, Vulnerable children, looked at foster care, children with disabilities in care and other contemporary issues of child welfare and child protection. Its recommendations cover the provision of financial and other services, the collection of data and access to information.

The ACT did not administer out-of-home care prior to self-government. The evidence presented has, however, provided members of the government, and indeed all members of this Assembly, with the opportunity to reflect on policies and practices of the past and to take these experiences into account when planning for the future. To demonstrate our commitment to improving care and protection for vulnerable people, the ACT government is establishing the office of Commissioner for Children and Young People to act as an advocate and to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard. We are helping fund agencies that directly represent the interests of children and young people who were or are now in care-the CREATE Foundation and CLAN, the Care Leavers Australia Network-and we are working to improve out-of-home care provided to children and young people in the ACT.

We have already established the Institute of Children Protection Studies at the Australian Catholic University in Watson, which will train coming generations of professionals and lead research in care and protection for the benefit of the ACT community into the future, and we have significantly increased funding to services for children and young people and their families.

The government also acknowledges the importance of access to information and will work to ensure young people leaving care, or who have been in care in the ACT, have access to their records. The ACT government is working with other jurisdictions to provide support and assistance to the people concerned who, as adults, are now residents of the territory.

The abuse inflicted on children in the past cannot be condoned by a civilised community. In expressing the sorrow and regret of the government at these past failures to protect children, I also express the belief that the actions being taken now to reform and strengthen the ACT care and protection system will provide a safe, secure and caring environment for our children.

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