Page 577 - Week 02 - Thursday, 6 March 2008

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The ACT has one of the lowest percentages of adults who smoke—16.4 per cent. It is hoped that the reforms I am announcing today will see that figure reduce even more. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Burke) adjourned to the next sitting.

Children and Young People Bill 2008

Ms Gallagher, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for Women) (10.36): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Along with the Attorney-General, I am pleased to introduce the Children and Young People Bill 2008. The bill proposes significant reform to the law relating to the care, protection and wellbeing of children and young people in the territory. I am very proud of the significant amount of work that has been undertaken in our review of the Children and Young People Act 1999. As members will be aware, the act commenced in May 2000 and provided for an operational review within three years.

In 2002, an extensive consultation process was commenced, involving a broad range of stakeholders, both government and non-government. These included children, young people, community organisations, legal agencies, ministerial advisory councils, unions and the judiciary. There have been forums, interviews, written submissions, reviews of related government reviews and inquiries, as well as the tabling of three interim progress reports.

Given the absolute importance of this legislation, we were determined to get it right. Changes had to be carefully measured and this was not something that would occur overnight. The new bill is, we believe, testimony to the care and attention to detail that was necessary to ensure the proper care and protection of children and young people in the ACT. We are the first Australian state or territory to review child welfare legislation in the context of a human rights act, something that we believe is very significant.

The review has already generated a number of important changes regarding the welfare of children and young people in the territory. Members will again recall that in 2006 the current act was amended to allow for the implementation of cultural plans for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. A new principle was introduced to help families understand care and protection procedures, as well as a new concept of a child or young person being at risk of abuse or neglect. In 2007, another amendment introduced prenatal reporting and a revised search and seizure scheme for the youth detention centre.

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