Page 1105 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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Statutory office holders

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.01): I seek leave to amend my notice of motion.

Leave granted.

DR FOSKEY: I move:

That this Assembly:

(1) acknowledges the invaluable contribution to the Territory of the ACT’s outgoing Community Advocate;

(2) recognises that the ACT Government has publicly advertised for applicants for that position;

(3) calls on the ACT Government to commit to a transparent, merit based selection process in appointing and in principle re-appointing all commissioners and statutory office holders.

Mr Speaker, in moving this motion, as amended, I have actually, I hope, anticipated concerns that might be raised from other parts of this house. That is my explanation for moving a slightly amended form of the notice of motion.

As we all know, Heather McGregor has performed the role of Community Advocate for the benefit of vulnerable people in the ACT since the creation of the office in 1991. The Office of the Community Advocate has a range of statutory powers and functions in relation to children, young people and adults with mental illness and impaired decision-making ability who require protection from abuse, neglect or exploitation.

The Community Advocate has the difficult role and task of taking decisions about the best interests of people who are unable to do so for themselves. Often these decisions must involve conflict with family members, service providers and departmental representatives. Nothing about this role is easy. It brings few friends and grudging respect, at best.

Heather McGregor has never shied away from making the difficult decisions. She has performed her role over the years in a way that has held the government and community accountable for their actions, and she has taken the opportunities offered by her position to highlight systemic issues negatively impacting on the lives of those she has been charged to protect. For all these reasons, the Greens would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the commitment and dedication shown by Ms McGregor over her many years in the position.

The Community Advocate and the other statutory oversight positions, for example, the discrimination commissioner, the human rights commissioner and the disability commissioner have all been created to promote and protect the rights and interests of Canberra’s vulnerable people. Many of these people are not in a position to speak for themselves and so rely heavily on the incumbents of the statutory positions to ensure that fairness and equity are accorded in matters that affect them.

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