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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 957 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

strategy will see the ACT referred to nationally as an example of best practice in child abuse prevention. I commend the motion to the Assembly.

MRS CROSS (5.58): Mr Speaker, I agree that this motion has been a result of misinformed comments. However, the misinformed comments have not come from my colleague Mr Cornwell. Ms Tucker and others have read a newspaper article in which Mr Cornwell was misquoted and became outraged, and rightly so-had the report in the Canberra Times about Mr Cornwell's letter been accurate.

Unfortunately, members of this Assembly have rushed into print instead of checking with Mr Cornwell first. This disturbs me greatly, given the sensitivity of this issue. To cast aspersions on a member of this Assembly on such a sensitive topic is a very dangerous thing to do.

I have read the letter Mr Cornwell wrote to Ms Johnston regarding the proposed march for children. I strongly encourage all members who intend to support paragraph (3) of this motion to read the letter before they vote. At no point in his letter does Mr Cornwell indicate that there is any denial in official circles regarding either the incidence or the seriousness of child abuse. Nor did he write, as reported, that there is no need to again bring child abuse to the government's attention. In fact, Mr Cornwell said exactly the opposite. He wrote in part:

I am not aware of any denial in official circles ... our institutions, particularly our religious faiths, now take the matter of child abuse very very seriously.

The letter does not give any credence to the notion that child sexual abuse should be covered up or, as Ms Tucker put it, put back into the box of family business.

Mr Cornwell draws attention in his letter to the great awareness that Australians have of child protection issues and applicable laws. He mentions that the ACT has mandatory reporting of child abuse, a measure introduced by the former Liberal government, and he indicates his support for further steps that may yet be necessary to improve protection of children. Mr Speaker, how all that can be interpreted as wanting to sweep child abuse under the mat is beyond me.

Mr Cornwell's letter does make a number of direct and indirect references to family. The instance that has attracted criticism refers to child abuse as a family issue. In this occurrence Mr Cornwell was not using his own phrase. Rather, he was quoting Ms Johnston, who referred to child abuse as a family issue. Mr Cornwell's letter clearly indicates that.

Mr Cornwell does, however, go to some length in his letter to place the responsibility for child abuse squarely where it belongs-with the perpetrators, who in most cases are family members. That is where the ultimate responsibility lies and where any residue of community ignorance resides.

Mr Speaker, I consider this motion to be, at best, uninformed. In other lights, it could be construed as merely a cheap shot at an Assembly colleague, and this is greatly disturbing to me as a new member of this Assembly. To suggest that any member of this Assembly has a flippant attitude towards child abuse is just nonsense, and I am sure the same could

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