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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 955 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

That is a statement you may wish to challenge. I repeat that 68 per cent of children up to the age of 10 who have been sexually abused were abused in a home environment. The point I am making is that we need to address this question at the family level. I do not argue with the fact that governments have a role to play, but might I suggest to you that the government role will always be after the event. Prevention is better than cure. That is why I am anxious to address child abuse of any description at the family level. I talked about it being a family problem. I want parents, irrespective of whether they are together or not, to be aware of this problem, to be alert to it, to be vigilant.

Mr Quinlan: What about a good march to give profile to the problem?

MR CORNWELL: I do not mind. If they want to have a march, that is fine. I will not be there, because I do not want it to turn into a protest. I hope it does not.

Ms Gallagher: It is not a protest.

MR CORNWELL: We will have to see about that. But these things have a habit of working out that way. I believe that we have to address the issue at the coalface, which is at home. We have to make parents aware, alert and vigilant to these problems. These shocking statistics cannot be ignored. They must not be ignored. It is absolutely crucial that we try to move away from what unfortunately has been an attempt over the years to ignore a lot of these problems. We cannot afford to do that. We must recognise that these things do go on. It is obvious from the statistics that they are more at a family level. Let us address the problem there. Let us highlight it.

If you want to have your march, that is fine. I do not have a difficulty with it. By all means, have the march. I will not be there. I hope it is not a protest. My comments on this were not made in a negative, critical fashion. I believe that I was seriously misinterpreted-not misquoted but seriously misinterpreted. We are on the same side on this matter.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.53): Mr Speaker, the ACT government commends the National March for Children in Canberra, to be held on 14 April this year. Indeed, the government and I as a responsible minister commend any action that draws attention to the serious community problem of child abuse and neglect. It is through efforts such as the National March for Children that we are able to remind the community of its responsibility to report suspected abuse to Family Services and the importance of protecting and caring for our children.

I join with Ms Gallagher in vehemently and strongly rejecting the comments made by Mr Cornwell. He says he did not make them as the opposition spokesman. I am not sure how he achieved that, seeing that he is the opposition spokesperson on community and family services. Nevertheless, his comments are fundamentally flawed.

Child abuse is not something that should be kept quiet; that should be hidden away and treated as private family business, as seems to be the tenor of the comments made by Mr Cornwell. The Stanhope government has a firm commitment to the support of children and young people at risk of abuse.

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