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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4823 ..

MRS BURKE (continuing):

access internet pornography was a form of child abuse. It is expected, Minister, that 70 children will visit Canberra Hospital's child-at-risk assessment unit this year, while in the 1990s the unit was seeing only three children per year.

Minister, although this report has only just been released, these sized figures are not produced overnight. Could you advise the Assembly what you are doing to protect our children from inappropriate sexual behaviour caused by internet exposure?

MS GALLAGHER: I became aware of that information when I read the paper today, Mrs Burke. I think it is concerning. I have been on the record a number of times expressing concern about the levels of reported or suspected child abuse in the ACT. They are on the rise. Family Services in the ACT does an excellent job of trying to deal with the increases that it is seeing in this area. It is disturbing.

In relation to my responsibilities in this area, it probably falls more within the education portfolio than in my ability to regulate what children are witnessing on the internet in their private lives or in their home lives. Certainly within the education department there are a number of mechanisms put in place to ensure that children, when accessing the internet as an education tool, are not able to log onto sites that have pornographic material, search for sites that have it or even type in key words that may lead them to sites that we wouldn't want them to look at. We have a filtering system through the department.

Government school students access the internet by way of the department's ISP service, Canberra Schools on the Net. CSN is an ISP service company and an Australian company. It was developed and sold to a number of state school systems. Part of that product is content filtering, which provides daily updates of sites that meet criteria for blocking. A considerable database has been built up of sites that are automatically blocked if anyone using EDU Net attempts to access them. We are constantly looking at this because it is an issue, particularly as ICT becomes a more integral part of the education system.

There was an incident at a school this year which alerted us to a weakness in the system. On that same day procedures were put in place to make sure that doesn't happen again.

I am confident that within the education portfolio, where I do have responsibility for how children are accessing the internet and what they are accessing on the internet, we have the appropriate procedures in place and that they are constantly being reviewed, often including updates from the ISP to ensure that we are protecting our children.

MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question?

MRS BURKE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I thank the minister for her answer. I appreciate the response in terms of the internal measures that you have. You may need to take this on notice. What specific initiatives, externally and in the broad community, would you now consider undertaking to address this crisis within your portfolio?

MS GALLAGHER: It comes to a question of the responsibility the state has to influence decisions that are taken at a family level. I will look at the report. I saw it today. There may be avenues that we can include-internet sites or whatever children

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