Page 599 - Week 02 - Thursday, 17 February 2005

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with around 30 new overseas recruited workers expected to arrive between March and July this year. Increasing demand for services is also impacting upon the capacity of non-government service providers, foster carers and kinship carers to provide out-of-home care for children and young people.

In response to these resourcing priorities, the government has tabled Appropriation Bill (No 2), which seeks to appropriate an estimated $6.2 million in the current year towards child protection reform, and continuing into the forward years. Those priorities are to further build service capacity by investing in the child protection work force and to invest in the business systems critical to direct service delivery. This funding is in addition to the $6 million made to the operational budget of the office in 2004-05 for child protection reform. The remainder of that funding is committed to the next six months.

Mr Speaker, in implementing the recommendations of the Vardon and Murray reports, we have a number of immediate priorities. These include the introduction of an amending bill arising from the review of the Children and Young People Act 1999, as well as a bill to establish the Commissioner for Children and Young People. Contracts are also being renegotiated with the out-of-home care sector, as these community-based agencies are critical in providing children and young people in care with supportive home environments.

Recruitment of foster carers and their training, as well as support for kinship carers, are among a raft of other priorities we are working diligently to deliver. I assure members we will continue the collaborative approach to child protection reform. This will involve the continuation of the Vardon report implementation steering committee and the active participation of non-government and government representatives on reference groups.

This collaborative approach certainly demonstrated its strength through the bushfire recovery task force and the disability reform program. I will provide the Assembly with a further progress report on the implementation of the Vardon and Murray reports in 2005. It is a very important accountability measure, informing members and the community about actions taken and challenges ahead.

Mr Speaker, it is important to reiterate the point I made earlier about the complexity of the challenges we face. There are certainly no quick fixes or simple solutions. We are, however, looking at best practice models and drawing on evidence-based policy and practice to establish a solid foundation for future reform.

The government would like to put on the record again its gratitude and admiration of the people who work with children and young people at risk in our city. It is a role that is extremely demanding and constant. Our thanks also to the child protection workers—the frontline workers from the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support—for their continued commitment in caring for and protecting children and young people, and supporting their families.

W also acknowledge foster carers, kinship carers, child protection workers from Barnardos, Marymead, Galilee, Richmond Fellowship and Life Without Barriers. They are supported in their work by the Foster Care Association of the ACT, the CREATE Foundation and the Youth Coalition of the ACT. I know I am speaking for every

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