Page 1167 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 24 March 2009

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That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Convenor, ACT Greens) (10.54): Firstly, I would like to thank Mr Barr for agreeing to debate this report and the government response, and to thank his office and departmental officials for providing a briefing to my staff. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the staff in all of the departments, agencies and community services who do so much work to support and encourage families in the ACT.

The ACT, like other jurisdictions in Australia and around the world, is working very hard to improve outcomes for vulnerable children. The Children and Young People Act, introduced last year and now almost entirely implemented, was a mammoth piece of legislation as well as consultation. I have heard from various sources that the changes it brought about are having positive impacts on the ground. I did not, however, want to let this report simply pass through the Assembly without some debate. The care and protection of our infants, children and young people is paramount.

In my previous work life as head of the Youth Coalition of the ACT, these were issues I dealt with on a day-to-day basis. Infants are vulnerable—all infants. This report seeks to ensure that all infants are given the care and support they need to grow up healthy and happy. It seeks to ensure that those infants who are even more at risk due to their family circumstances are given the best possible opportunities from the earliest possible moment.

The key issues raised in the hearings for this standing committee on health and disability inquiry into the early intervention and care of vulnerable infants were fear of the care and protection system, lack of information about services available and a disconnection between the target families and the services available to them, especially to fathers.

The recommendations in the report sought to address these issues and I am pleased to see that in general the government supports them. However, the gist of the government’s response suggests that, while the government agree that the recommendations are good ideas, they do not think they need to do much more than they are already doing. Even in relation to the ones they do support—such as recommendation 3, that ACT Health develop a risk assessment tool to screen for domestic violence for pregnant women, and recommendation 6, that the ACT government investigate ways of utilising the Victorian government resource parenting support tool kit for alcohol and other drug workers in the ACT—although they have not been fully implemented the report states that the work is being undertaken, or will be undertaken, dependent on resources and budget priorities. I look forward to hearing more in the coming months about how these initiatives are progressing.

Don’t get me wrong: the work being done by the departments of Health, Education and Training and Disability, Housing and Community Services and the relevant community agencies is invaluable. I would like to particularly note the IMPACT program, which brings together the various departments and agencies to assist

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