Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (20 October) . . Page.. 3410 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
I would like to raise just a few of the comments that were made to the Social Policy Committee I was chairing in the last Assembly when we looked at services for children at risk. The Law Society, in its submission to the inquiry about the situation where all magistrates deal with children's issues, explained that, though they do a good job under the circumstances, a specialist children's magistrate would be able to build up a detailed knowledge of cases, options and services available. The Law Society submitted that the lack of a children's magistrate was a critical factor in the coordination of services for children who come before the courts, that with a number of different magistrates dealing with the area there may be an inadvertent degree of inconsistency, that magistrates dealing with care proceedings are faced with even greater difficulties in gaining knowledge about what is relevant, and that a specialist magistrate would not only have knowledge of the young person's background but also be able to look for alternatives to assist them, such as diversionary conferencing or placement options.
As I have said before, the committee pointed out that the position of children's magistrate had the potential to deliver long-term benefits to the community by ensuring that at least some of the many vulnerable children who come before the courts do not continue onto the road to incarceration because their needs will be better and more consistently met. But overall this matters because it is about furthering equity and justice for vulnerable young people by arranging our justice system to give them the best possible opportunity to find their way in life.
MR RUGENDYKE (5.30), in reply: Mr Speaker, I thank members for their support of these sensible amendments to what has been a difficult question. The Assembly has put the magistracy on notice not to abuse the flexibility that these amendments have given and to maintain the integrity of what is desired, that is, a Children's Court magistrate. I thank members. I foreshadow that I have a small amendment to move in the detail stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to in principle.
MR RUGENDYKE (5.31): I move:
Clause 2, page 1, line 5, omit the clause, substitute the following clause:
(1) Section 1 and this section commence on the day this Act is notified in the Gazette.
(2) The remaining provisions commence on 1 December 1999.".