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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 956 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

Within the ACT the statutory child welfare authority Family Services operates in partnership with other agencies and the broader community to enhance the wellbeing of families and protect children from abuse and neglect. Family Services operates within the legislative framework provided by the Children and Young People Act 1999. This act makes it clear that the government and community together share a responsibility for ensuring that children are kept safe.

The spirit of the act encourages partnerships with families, foster carers and other professionals who work with children and families. The act recognises that the best interests of children are met when the people who know them best work together in a cooperative partnership. The act also recognises that professionals in the community who work with families and children on a daily basis-such as doctors, teachers, nurses, child-care workers-provide the most reliable information about child abuse and harm to children.

While Family Services cannot do its job without the assistance of its community partners, it does not minimise the government's legal and ethical responsibility to protect society's most vulnerable members-children at risk of harm or abuse. In all actions and decisions made by Family Services, the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration.

The past two years have seen the introduction to the ACT of several new initiatives that have improved service to ACT children and families. The introduction of the family group conferencing and the looking after children system for all children and young people in out-of-home care are extremely positive steps, and steps this government has welcomed. The government has a firm belief in the importance of early intervention and prevention strategies to reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect.

The multimedia ParentLink campaign is an excellent example of increasing community education and supporting parents in the parenting role. Similarly, the Schools as Communities program also provides support through primary schools, high schools and preschools to families directly.

Contemporary thinking on child support and child abuse prevention will, I am confident, support my opinion and the opinion of the government that keeping child abuse as a family matter, hidden, is one of those things that have led to a great deal of additional heartbreak for children and their families. I believe that this is one of the problems that have arisen in the past. Child abuse was seen as a family responsibility. It was essentially hidden. It was a secret, and somehow there was some blame to be attached to the innocent victims-the children.

The government does not see child abuse as a family issue. Child abuse is a community concern which can be addressed only through better and more timely provision of support to families.

The government is currently embarking upon a new children's strategy which will ensure that ACT families receive holistic family support through collaboration between the health, education and welfare sectors. I believe that the implementation of this new

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