Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 9 Hansard (19 September) . . Page.. 2865..
MS GALLAGHER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The commissioner, and the appointment of the commissioner, comes under the portfolio of the Attorney-General, but I think Dr Foskey's question is to me as minister for children and youth about the capacity of that commissioner to support the work of children and young people in the ACT. Her question is whether I am confident that the commissioner will have the capacity to deal with some of the issues that will go to the commissioner. I can say yes, I am confident that it will.
This is a new service. These are services in addition to what has ever existed for children and young people in the ACT. There has never been a commissioner. We have relied on the Public Advocate and on non-government organisations that we fund. They provide advocacy support for children and young people, particularly vulnerable children and young people. CREATE is an example of that. It is an organisation that is specifically there to provide support to children and young people in the ACT. So there are already a number of programs that are supported by the recent increases in the budget into this area by this government—unprecedented levels of resources going into addressing the needs of our vulnerable children and young people in the ACT.
This is a new service. We should be very excited about the potential having a commissioner for children brings to the ACT. I think it is going to add tremendously to the advice to me and to the attorney on issues affecting children and young people. It will provide excellent support to the area of care and protection—I have no doubt about that—and to the work we deliver through the children's plan.
The fact that we have never had one simply shows that we have prioritised this. We have passed legislation and we have funded the commissioner—all in the interests of providing extra support to children and young people in the ACT. It is an extra service. It is going to be fantastic when a suitable person is appointed. It can actually get off the ground, get running and start doing the work that we have all planned. No doubt there are people lining up to provide that work to the commissioner as soon as possible.
In terms of commitment to the role of the commissioner, it has been this government's idea to have the children's commissioner. As I said, we have passed legislation. We have funded it. We are the ones who prioritised the children's commissioner in the first place. For the first time a government has funded a children's commissioner as an extra level of support for children and young people in the ACT.
DR FOSKEY: Is the minister aware—and I am cognisant of the fact that perhaps this one should go to the Attorney-General, but it is still of interest to me—of expert concerns that this part-time commissioner will lack the time to pay the close attention needed, which includes time to listen to young people at risk? Are there any plans in place to address those concerns?
MS GALLAGHER: It is a bit hard to say—the commissioner is not even in place—how they will manage their workloads. I am aware of comments that were made at the launch of child protection week, which Dr Foskey was at, by Dr Sue Packer that she would have some concerns about an underresourced commissioner. I talk to Dr Packer all the time. We keep that dialogue open. I will be talking to her about her concerns in that area, to make sure we can address them. I do not think they are insurmountable.