Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 23 June 2005) . . Page.. 2233 ..
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.53): I am sure we all agree on the need to do everything that we can to protect children from sexual crimes and to prevent recidivism among sexual offenders. The ACT Greens will support the establishment of a child sex offenders register in the ACT as part of the development of the Australian national child offender register. However, we believe that the register proposed by the government is a bare-bones approach and would prefer to see the ACT being more proactive.
I am not going to move specific amendments to this bill, but I would like the government to take on board three recommendations for improving and expanding the operation of the sex offenders register. Firstly, we would like to see a framework developed for preventing sexual crime in the ACT which includes community education, assistance to victims and offender rehabilitation programs. Secondly, we would like the legislation to be expanded to include mechanisms for monitoring risks and triggering intervention. Thirdly, we would like to see research commissioned and consultation into the expansion of the register to include sexual offences against adults. I will now expand on those suggestions.
The first deals with developing a framework for preventing sexual crime. There is a great deal of misinformation regarding sexual crime in this community, including perceptions that most sexual crime is perpetrated by strangers, whereas it is much more likely to be by a family member, a friend or a person known to the victim. Estimates of reoffending rates for sexual crimes also tend to get distorted, with most people believing that they are very high—for instance, 80 to 90 per cent. Actual recidivism rates tend to be much lower. For example, the international Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers indicates that reoffence rates for untreated sex offenders who primarily target children range from 10 per cent to 40 per cent. It is very difficult to predict which offenders are most like to reoffend.
Mr Stephen Smallbone, director of the Griffith Adolescent Forensic Assessment and Treatment Centre, has cautioned that psychology around sex offenders is still an imperfect science. We are inclined to overpredict recidivism and may subject some offenders to a demanding and stigmatising reporting regime for years based on the mistaken predication that they might commit another offence. What we do know is that well-designed sex offender treatment can reduce the recidivism of sexual offenders. Furthermore, lifestyle circumstances can affect the chances of new offences, stable housing and employment, healthy social and leisure activities, a vigilant and pro-social support system and ongoing treatment are all important to ensure success. Monitoring and support by community corrections agents and other professionals, the social support systems for offenders and the entire community play a crucial role.
Sex offender rehabilitation programs have demonstrated modest but reliable reductions in recidivism and there appears to be a general consensus in the literature that community-based programs are more effective than prison-based programs. Community-based rehabilitation programs can provide sex offenders with ongoing access to case workers, practical assistance to find appropriate housing and employment, assistance to address drug and alcohol issues, access to cognitive behaviour therapy, assistance with the development of daily routines and activities that assist the person to stay in control of their behaviour, counselling, risk assessment and advice. Across Australia, the majority of the sex offender rehabilitation programs are prison-based