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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3344 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

without concern that their job would be on the line if they ruffled political feathers or those of public servants and departments responsible for children's interest.

I was pleased however, to meet some departmental officers who appeared to genuinely care for our young and who are generally committed to the interests of our young people. They also seem frustrated that their hands, at times, were tied by how much they could do and the lack of information sharing between departments.

For me this whole inquiry process was the most comprehensive that I have experienced in my time in this Assembly. I was extremely pleased to see the commitment from my committee colleagues Mr Hargreaves and Ms Dundas, and later on Mr Cornwell who joined us. We all had the same concerns for our children. We all wanted to see that the welfare of our young people was protected, that their interests were protected and looked after. We came at things at times from different directions, but in the end we all had the same concern. There was nobody on this committee that cared less or more. We all cared a great amount.

For me, the most important recommendation-and I think this is the one that probably had us stumbling at times-was recommendation 40:

The Committee recommends that the Government establish a commission for children and young people with the appropriate powers to enable the full investigation of complaints and to allow the commission to act effectively. This is to ensure definite outcomes as well as the capacity to review decisions previously made which affect the health and well being of a child or a young person. The Committee recommends the commission be established as outlined on Chapter 10 of this Report.

I understood full well Mr Cornwell's concerns. Mr Cornwell in fact discussed them with all of us. I understood that his concerns related to increasing bureaucracy rather than addressing the problems in the existing bureaucracy. While I think all of us empathise with his concerns-and in fact probably Mr Cornwell and I were more in sync on this matter-I think at the end of the day I felt it was important that we do have someone in a senior capacity, at arms-length of the government who is not influenced by the political powers that be of the day, and can make fair and balanced decisions that are in the interest of the child. I think that this is why I agree with my committee colleagues Mr Hargreaves and Ms Dundas that a youth commissioner was appropriate.

Of course, we can only make this recommendation. The decision whether we have one or not is up to the executive of the day. I truly hope that if they do decide to implement this recommendation that they do it at arms-length and that this person has the powers to make tangible effective change.

I thank those people who were instrumental in putting this excellent document together-the committee secretaries, Judith Henderson and Jane Carmody, with the temporary assistance of Derek Abbot, Judy Moutia, but especially Jane Carmody, who put a lot of her passion and a lot of feeling and professionalism into this report. She is to be commended for her five-star work.

Debate (on motion by Ms Gallagher ) adjourned to the next sitting.

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