Page 2909 - Week 09 - Thursday, 18 August 2005

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For the information of members, I also table two other schedules relating to approved lease variations and change of use charge payments received during the same period.

Quamby Youth Centre

Human rights audit report—government response

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations): For the information of members, I present the following paper:

Human Rights Act—human rights audit of Quamby detention centre—government response, dated August 2005.

I seek leave to make a statement in relation to the paper.

Leave granted.

MS GALLAGHER: Today I table the ACT government’s response to the human rights audit of Quamby detention centre. The audit was conducted by the Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Helen Watchirs, during May and June this year and was presented to the Attorney-General on 1 July 2005.

The audit was a high-level review of fundamental human rights principles and examines the current legal framework and operational practices at the facility, including humane treatment, segregation, privacy and information and communications. Members will recall the government released its response to the audit report on 3 August, together with the site selection report for the new ACT youth detention centre.

The audit was undertaken with the full cooperation of government and in collaboration with government. Significantly, the audit report marks the first occasion on which the statutory audit powers under the Human Rights Act have been exercised and the first time operational practices and procedures at Quamby have been assessed against human rights principles. The audit report is therefore a demonstration of the Human Rights Act in action and sets an example to other jurisdictions that have not embraced such legislation.

As the Chief Minister noted at the launch of the report, human rights is not a reward that is bestowed on selected people in the community. It is a fundamental and universal right. The treatment of detainees, in particular juvenile detainees, has long been the subject of human rights scrutiny, and quite legitimately, because these people are amongst our most vulnerable citizens. This government is appreciative of the human rights commissioner for highlighting the areas in which we are not meeting our responsibilities under the act.

Many of the issues associated with Quamby have a long history, indeed dating back to the beginning of self-government in the ACT. To take one example, since 1989 until quite recently, the detention facility was operating without a proper legislative basis. When this was brought to our attention, we acted quickly to rectify the situation. We accept the adverse findings in the audit constructively as a further step on the road to better governance.

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