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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 951 ..

Child abuse

MS GALLAGHER (5.33): I move:

That the Assembly:

(1) notes the importance of community and government action in protecting children from abuse;

(2) commends the support shown by Canberrans in hosting and supporting the National March for Children on 14 April;

(3) rejects the uninformed comments by Opposition Spokesman for Community and Family Services Mr Cornwell made in the Canberra Times on Sunday 7 April.

Mr Speaker, to say that Mr Cornwell's comments over the weekend, as published in the Canberra Times on Sunday, were ill-timed and unnecessary is putting it mildly. In referring to the legitimate desire of the community to show its support for children and its ambition to protect them from abuse through the National March for Children as a charade, and by suggesting that child abuse is a family issue, he has not only undermined his office as opposition spokesman on community and family services but also, I believe, tarnished the reputation of this Assembly as a responsive and active participant in protecting the vulnerable from exploitation and abuse.

There is no doubt that child abuse is a serious social problem, and it is one that the entire community and their governments have a duty to address. This is the year 2002 and antiquated notions of the public/private divide that we used to keep the abuse of women and children out of the public arena are no longer relevant, and it is not acceptable to sweep issues of child abuse and domestic violence under the mat of family privacy.

For centuries the primacy of the family was used to deny the unrepresentative and the vulnerable access to basic social justice. Fortunately, as a society we have moved beyond that, and we accept that as a society we have a duty to each other to protect those who cannot protect themselves, no matter what their family status may be.

Children are without a doubt some of the most vulnerable people in our community, yet they are also the fruit and future of that community, and we must ultimately look to the sound care and treatment of children as the best way we have of ensuring our own success as a cohesive, democratic and tolerant society.

We each have a responsibility, whether we are parents or not, to ensure that children receive the love, care and support they need and that they are free from emotional, physical and sexual abuse. It is a sad fact of today's society that governments have to take an active role in dealing with child abuse but, unfortunate or not, the reality is that child abuse occurs and governments, as advocates for those who cannot advocate for themselves, must do all they can to protect children.

We must also recognise that governments need support from the community in order to legitimately carry out their functions and that marches such as the one planned for Sunday are an excellent way of bringing the community together to show their concern

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