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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1597 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

The report produced by the committee was very comprehensive and included a total of 83 combined key recommendations and sub-recommendations across a broad range of areas impacting on women. As I noted in tabling this report last year, there are a great number of recommendations, not all of which can be addressed immediately. However, it is a report which I believe will remain relevant for several years to come and will assist this government to deliver policy and services for women in future years.

This government is committed to improving the status of women by supporting the choices that women want to make in their lives, providing opportunities for women to participate fully in community life, and ensuring that women can make an equal contribution in public life. We recognise that the development of a holistic and collaborative approach across government is essential. To this end, on coming to government we established the Office for Women and opened up reporting processes so that the director of this office can report directly to me as the Minister for Women, and so enhance the capacity of the office more effectively to advance the interests of women.

This office now plays a key role in the development of a coordinated strategic approach and is working closely with all government agencies to embed processes and practices that will help to maximise outcomes for women in the ACT. This includes the development of a new strategic plan for women, one of the key recommendations of the report, that will identify key outcome areas and assist to establish processes that will provide a strong and sustainable basis for informing and directing government policies and programs for the benefit of women. The Ministerial Advisory Council on Women will play a key role in contributing to the development of the new strategic plan and its ongoing monitoring.

Of the 83 recommendations in the select committee's report, only one is not supported. This recommendation relates to the extension of the Women's Information and Referral Service to an after-hours 1800 number. The government does not support this recommendation as the role of this service is not that of a crisis service and a number of crisis services already exist in the ACT.

This government is already responding to many of the report's recommendations. This includes the development of a new strategic plan for women, as mentioned. We will increase the duration of paid maternity leave in the ACT public service from 12 to 14 weeks, effective from 11 March this year. This increase, along with other important family-friendly initiatives, positions the ACT as a leader in providing flexible job conditions. We are continuing to work in the area of health to enhance the range and effectiveness of services, including outreach services, particularly in relation to mental health. Our commitment to this is reflected in the current budget initiatives.

Violence and safety issues for women are also mentioned in the report. This is another area we have been working hard to address. I recently released an across-government policy framework aimed at improving outcomes for women and families affected by violence in the ACT. The action plans under this framework clearly outline the range of initiatives in place to work towards three identified outcome areas: protection and justice; options for women; and prevention. We will continue to develop and support initiatives that will assist us in achieving these outcomes, and again our commitment is reflected in current budget initiatives.

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