Page 2591 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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that sometimes it is only when we ask questions or when things get raised in public that things happen. We will certainly continue to do that and continue to hold her accountable, despite how the minister might resent our holding her to account.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (6.15): Mr Speaker, the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support has been under a lot of scrutiny over, say, the last 18 months or so. I feel that, while many changes have been made, that scrutiny will be necessary on an ongoing basis. The work done by the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support is important work. No-one can overstate just how arduous, difficult and draining it is for the people who carry out that work. They do probably amongst the hardest jobs in the ACT, looking after children in need of protection, children in distress, children at risk. From my experience in dealing with people who deal with the system, it must be enormously harrowing.

The difficulties that some families and some children find themselves in are often beyond the imagination of people in comfortable, middle-class Canberra. It is often a bit of a shock to the system to realise that, in comfortable middle-class Canberra, there are people who are doing it really tough. The people who deal with the people who are doing it really tough are often the people in the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support. Because their client base is centred on children, it must be a very harrowing experience for them. We need to be very careful, when we talk about the shortcomings that are there and that have been apparent over the years, that we are not overly critical of the people who are doing it because often they are doing great work under very trying circumstances.

But there have been failures of process that have been ongoing. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, tomorrow we will be passing a piece of legislation which is a fix-up of years of a collection of small oversights. But there are larger oversights. We have had a series of failings and the government’s response to that. I know that it is a bit like being opposed to motherhood, but I do have some concern about the quantum of money that is being thrown at the problem.

Again, the solution of this minister is, as it is with most ministers in this government: if there is a problem we will find some money and throw it at it. If you throw enough money at it you will be able to paper over the problems.

Mr Hargreaves: Like health.

MRS DUNNE: Like health, yes, that is right. What we are seeing here is an organisation, the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support, which is coming out of a very black period. I do not want to be too critical of the pace at which it is coming out because some of what it is doing is showing considerable improvement and a vast change in the way things are done.

I have to compliment the minister. About two or three months ago my office and other members received briefings, through the government’s education and training unit, on the operation of the office and how they might deal with children at risk and how we, as members, might approach families who come to us with concerns and considerations. I have to say it was an enormously valuable experience and that the quality and professionalism of people that I dealt with, particularly on that occasion, was very high

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