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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 5 August 2021) . . Page.. 2524 ..


(3) At what age is a young person in the ACT not legally required to return home if they do not want to.

(4) What is the police response if they find (a) a runaway who is not legally required to return home (b) find a runaway who is legally required to return home.

(5) In what specific circumstances may police not return a runaway who is legally required to return home.

(6) If parents know the whereabouts of a runaway child or young person and contact the police, what steps do the police generally take to return the child or young person to their parents.

(7) What steps do police take to help families access mediation and/or counselling services in order to help resolve the factors that may contribute to a child or young person running away from home.

(8) How many youth liaison officers exist within ACT Policing, and what role do they plan in these kinds of situations.

(9) Does the ACT Government-funded Safe and Connected Youth Program provide any support to runaway children or young people who do not wish to return home when located by police; if so, in what ways.

Mr Gentleman: The answer to the member’s question is as follows:

The following table provides the number of instances where ACT Policing has been involved in locating a young person (under the age of 18) in the past five financial years. There may have been multiple incidents for certain missing persons.

2016/17

2017/18

2018/19

2019/20

2020/21

505*

265

247

325

305

*The term ‘runaway’ was removed from legislation in July 2017 with police only responding to reports of ‘missing persons’ as there needs to be a requirement of concern for the young person’s welfare.

When a person is reported to police as missing either from home or a care facility, police will dispatch search resources only if there is an element of concern for the missing person (e.g. age or medical reasons).

Police will then work to find the missing person and check their welfare.

ACT Policing officers are well-trained and will make every effort to return a young person to their home or care facility. This includes an empathetic and understanding approach to the situation, and offering transportation or referral to other support services that may assist the young person in feeling more supported in their home environment.

If after speaking with police, the person remains adamant that they do not wish to return to their residence, police will make an assessment of the environment in which they have found the missing person.

If the environment is deemed unsafe by police (for example, due to other people present or the presence of illicit substances), police are then allowed to remove the person to a safe location, and attempt to organise an alternative arrangement if the person does not wish to return home.


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