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Canberra Times . . Page.. 986 ..

studying for a postgraduate diploma in epidemiology and population health a couple of years ago, I chose to do a unit on child welfare law. I was fortunate enough to have as my lecturer Dr John Seymour, who had prepared the original legislation in this area. Having done that, I wound up with more questions than answers.

The thing that I think everybody would be agreed on is that we must take whatever action we possibly can to avoid and resolve problems of domestic violence, particularly with reference to children. Over the last two or three years, almost on a quarterly basis, I have been thinking, “Yes, mandatory reporting is the way to go”. Then later I think, “No. The difficulties associated with mandatory reporting are such that it is not the best way to resolve the problems”. It is interesting, Mr Speaker, that, of all the jurisdictions in Australia, the ACT is still the only one that does not have a regime of mandatory reporting. It is particularly interesting, considering the report published in the Canberra Times six to eight weeks ago that a survey throughout Australia found that Canberra has one of the lowest rates of domestic violence. Perhaps the children are associated; perhaps they are not. I read only the media report of that survey rather than actually looking at the survey itself, but it highlights some of the difficulties in dealing with these issues, Mr Speaker.

I was a teacher in South Australia when mandatory reporting was introduced there. My personal experience of it was that it did not cause the sorts of difficulties that some who write on it argue that it does. I heard Mr Connolly talking about the possibility of the inertia having something to do with entrenched views within the department, or something along those lines. It may well be that those views are well-founded views dealing with the same sorts of problems. On the other hand, it may well be that that is not the case. From what I have heard today, the impression I get is that the general will of the majority of the Assembly is to move towards mandatory reporting and that it is really a question of how.

That leads me to the main concern I have had with mandatory reporting. This is a concern that was highlighted to some extent in Ms McRae's speech. If you do not have the services in place and you introduce mandatory reporting of things like child abuse, then you can expect to create more problems than you resolve. Hence the motion, as Ms McRae has put it up, makes the sensible request that the Government set out the way it is going to go about it. Rather than politicising the issue, Ms McRae has been very careful to word this motion to ensure that something is achieved. Whilst I still have doubts in the back of my mind about whether mandatory reporting is the appropriate way to go, if we are going to proceed down that line, then this motion will assist. The Chief Minister has spoken to me about whether it is appropriate that the implementation report be weekly. The motion talks about every sitting week, whereas Ms McRae referred to every sitting session. There is a slight difference. I think we should have a report at least quarterly. That is the way we looked at the health area previously. That would still be very much in the spirit of what Ms McRae has proposed.

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