Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 25 October 2011) . . Page.. 4931 ..
Community Services directorates include one that exempts employers supporting work experience students in non-regulated activities from having to be registered. Another exempts police from other jurisdictions and the AFP who are assisting ACT police in investigations.
As I said, these are only a few of the amendments that this bill introduces. It shows the Labor government just what can be done when the government invites the community to be engaged in the legislative process. It would have been better if they had been dealt with before the legislation had been introduced. We have been telling this Labor government about the value of community consultation for the last 10 years and I hope that the government has learnt from this experience.
MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Leader, ACT Greens) (5.17): I am pleased to participate in this debate this afternoon. I am pleased to see that this bill has come before the house and that we will be passing both bills this afternoon. It is a big change to the way that we are going to be vetting those who work with the most vulnerable in our community. The ACT Greens do feel that this bill will be of benefit to people in the ACT.
As we know and have discussed regularly in this place, the protection and wellbeing of our children and vulnerable people is of vital importance. We know that children and young people are inherently vulnerable because of their age and require extra protection by the community. It is important to note at the outset that vulnerability is an imposed category that some vulnerable groups would challenge. While this needs to be acknowledged, it is generally held that vulnerability is used to refer to those individuals or groups who, due to age, ill health, infirmity, minority status or their otherwise disempowerment in society may be open to exploitation, whether that is physical, emotional, sexual, financial or psychological.
I think there is no doubt that this has in many ways been a long and intense process that has seen lots of consultation and listening on behalf of those within government driving the process. To their credit, many changes have been made in relation to the feedback that they collected. This has not been an easy task. It is easy to shy away from following a process that allows people to feel included and valued but ultimately takes on board their feedback. Today I think we have a bill with amendments that is inclusive and that has considered properly the feedback that was received.
I take seriously the responsibility we have to provide protections to those who are considered vulnerable in our community. I think the commitment shown by those in the community sector, particularly those in the alcohol and other drugs sector and the mental health sector, demonstrates that this is a serious reform to the checking system.
This bill establishes a statutory framework that provides for the checking of people’s backgrounds and a risk assessment of the person who will be working or volunteering to work with children, young people or vulnerable adults. The guidelines in the bill clearly define that the paramount consideration is the wellbeing of vulnerable people and their protection from harm.
We know that there will be a series of risk assessments. We know that there will be a series of processes that need to be efficient, timely and follow principles of natural