Page 1371 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 28 March 2012

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worth noting that the requirement for explanatory statements is a recent change to the standing orders and it is sometimes difficult for non-government members to provide all of these things in a timely way.

Question resolved in the affirmative, with the concurrence of an absolute majority.

Official Visitor Bill 2012

Ms Bresnan, pursuant to notice, presented the bill.

Title read by Clerk.

MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (10.33): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Firstly, I do thank members for allowing me to present this bill today without an explanatory statement. It will not set a precedent and we do recognise that. This will be just a one-off circumstance in this instance. Thank you once again for that.

Official visitors play a very important role in our community. They were established over 100 years ago to go into places where people are detained against their will and to ensure they are receiving fair treatment and adequate care. Currently in the ACT we have three legislated official visitor roles—for mental health, corrections, and children and young people. Five people perform the role of official visitor for mental health, two people perform the role of official visitor for corrections, and one person performs the role of official visitor for children and young people.

Over the past decade there have been many reports, reviews and recommendations addressing the need to provide official visitors with greater independence by ensuring they are not funded by the directorates they investigate. The bill I am tabling today proposes to implement those recommendations, while recognising the current policy context.

The key elements of the bill include: separating the official visitors from directorates by having them funded through the Office of the Public Advocate, with the office also providing official visitors with administrative support; creating a new official visitor role for people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people; ensuring there will always be an official visitor for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the corrections system; increasing the oversight of the official visitor for mental health beyond the traditional institutions and further into community facilities; and creating a register of approved disability accommodation.

In drafting the Official Visitor Bill I have conducted a thorough consultation process. In January this year I released an exposure draft of the bill and an accompanying discussion paper. My office sent material to organisations identified as having an interest or who would be affected by the proposed changes. I received responses from approximately 29 organisations and individuals and a submission from the ACT

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