Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3341 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
wellbeing of our youth. A commissioner should have wide-ranging investigative powers and the ability to monitor legislation for how it impacts on children and young people, as well as the power to advocate on their behalf. Such an office must be a strong and independent voice. But more importantly, it must get children and young people involved in the decision-making processes, especially when the decision affects them.
Many Western nations are recognising the need to acknowledge and respect the right of children and young people and are establishing commissions on their behalf. In Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania have them, and South Australia and Victoria are well down the track to establishing their own. These commissions provide information to young people and those working with young people on how to empower children and young people. They talk to businesses and policy makers on how to involve children and young people in their organisations. They run seminars for people in the justice system about the experiences of young people and what they are feeling. In New South Wales, where child abuse is often hitting the headlines, the commissioner also does investigations into child deaths and tries to identify systems abuse-those where children and young people are suffering as a result of government systems.
There is a whole chapter in this report dedicated to the discussions that the committee had about the need for a commissioner for children and young people. I hope that the government fully studies the entire chapter. The recommendation is such that we call on the government to study the chapter. I fully support the need for a commissioner for children and young people. Such a commissioner needs to be brought up in this community in consultation with the community, in consultation with children and young people themselves, about what it is they are looking for from such a position. Advocates and people like the Youth Coalition of the ACT, CARE and welfare providers for children and young people discuss what it is they will need from a commissioner of children and young people.
We provide the framework for those discussions in this report, to address many of the questions that the community will have. But we haven't recommended a specific model and we actually sit within the bureaucracy because we recognise that more consultation needs to be done with the community, to get the model right for the ACT.
Over the course of the inquiry it was important that we actually spoke to young people, and it is a small personal disappointment that while I was technically a young person at the beginning of the inquiry the UN definition no longer applies to me. But let me assure the Assembly that this doesn't mean I will no longer advocate for children and young people and I will continue to work to ensure the voices of those younger than me continue to be heard in this place. We know that young people can speak out for themselves when given the chance and we need to encourage and support them to do so.
Young people use our buses, they walk through our town centres, they do voluntary work, they use the internet for information and education and they control about $5 billion being injected into the Australian economy every year. They are part of the economy and they are part of our community, and what young people think and what we feel as a result of our experience is just as valid and worthy as anybody else's.