Page 2452 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 1 July 2008

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The opposition will be supporting this bill. We do not have any amendments because we think it is something that needs a holistic approach, and I do not propose to take a piecemeal approach to such important legislation.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.03): This bill represents a mammoth effort and the work over years of many people. I would like to thank the departments and Ms Gallagher and her staff for their hard work and their assistance and readiness to brief me and my staff on the bill and for answering the very many questions that we submitted to them.

This bill has a lot of positive changes for the children and young people of the ACT, and it is still, in my opinion, a work in progress. My office has been advised that not all parts of the bill will commence at once, that its implementation will be monitored and that there will be room for future amendments. The size of this bill has been criticised by many, including the Office of the Public Advocate, and I agree that it would have been much easier to address if it had been presented in separate bills. The sections are clearly divided, which suggests to me that it could have been presented as separate pieces of legislation. Such a brick of a document is hardly child friendly.

As you will be aware, I have proposed amendments to the bill, which have been circulated and which I will be putting later. After consulting very broadly with many of the agencies and organisations that represent the interests of young people, we believe that these amendments are important to ensure the rights of children and young people to participate in the decisions affecting their lives and to bring the age at which people are deemed to have criminal responsibility better into line with human rights practices.

Prior to the bill being tabled, and incidental to it, my office organised a range of meetings with organisations and individuals involved with the welfare of children and young people in the ACT. Mr Speaker, you might say that I have consulted exhaustively around issues of care and protection of children, and I did this because I was concerned that the Vardon report was released some time ago. I was very interested to know the extent to which the recommendations made in that report had been implemented. Not content with just hearing about that from the government and the department, I contacted pretty well every organisation that I knew that represented the interests of young people, especially young people in care.

That consultation brought to light a broad range of issues affecting the lives of our children, and it provided the lens through which I and my staff were able to look at the legislation. Some of my concerns about care and protection have been addressed by this bill, and I would like to commend the government on the provisions improving stability and long-term planning and the measures for early intervention. The department has informed my staff that the out-of-home care review is in its final stages before consultation, and I hope that the consultation process is thorough and that the government will enter into it with an open mind.

Concerns remain, however, about the legislation’s focus on the crisis end of the problem, about kids transitioning from care and about the resources—human and

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