Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 7 June 2018) . . Page.. 2193 ..
I would remind members, of course, that the ACT was the first jurisdiction in Australia to enact a human rights act which provides an explicit statutory basis for respecting, protecting and promoting civil and political rights. The rights of children, including protecting and safeguarding children, are fundamental to the territory’s human rights approach.
Again the ACT was the first jurisdiction to push at the COAG level for the national harmonisation of reportable conduct schemes. We did that some 18 months prior to the royal commission making its recommendations. We committed to responding to the royal commission six months after the final report in December 2017. And we are on track to provide a comprehensive response which I will release shortly.
Recommendation 7.9 of the final report recommended state and territory governments establish nationally consistent legislative schemes based on the approach adopted in New South Wales. These schemes would oblige heads of institutions to notify an oversight body of any reportable allegation, conduct or conviction involving any of the institutions’ employees. As one of the three schemes in place across Australia, the ACT is on track with that recommendation.
Recommendation 7.10 goes to the functions, powers and responsibilities provided for by reportable conduct schemes, and the ACT is also on track with that recommendation.
I want to stress that the government’s work on the royal commission’s recommendations does not begin or end with this bill. Some recommendations have already been implemented, whilst the implementation of many others is underway. Some recommendations are consistent with the ACT government’s existing ACT children and young people’s commitment 2015-25, while some others clearly require further planning, further consultation and tailoring to be effective in the ACT context.
A few recommendations will take the ACT and other jurisdictions into areas that will require significant work and coordination to implement, in particular those that recommend governments amend laws concerning mandatory reporting to include people in the religious ministry and that those laws do not exempt persons in the religious ministry from being required to report information disclosed in the course of religious confession. Here the government notes the differences between reportable conduct and mandatory reporting by mandated reporters. This is also the case for people who are presently covered by the scheme.
Reportable conduct covers a broad range of conduct compared to abuse and neglect or the risk of abuse and neglect which must be reported to child and youth protection services. This means employers may become aware of an allegation or conviction that is reportable to the Ombudsman but is not conduct that would be reported to child and youth protection services.
The royal commission in its criminal justice report also made recommendations around introducing legislation to create a criminal offence of a failure to report,