Page 4139 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013

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teachers are equipped with the latest professional learning opportunities. In the ACT election the Liberal Party advocated for an increase in the professional learning fund for teachers because we recognised there was simply not sufficient opportunity for teachers to obtain the additional skills they need to deal with the range of student disabilities they found in their classrooms.

On the issue of support for young people, I note this morning’s Canberra Times refers to a report by the Institute of Child Protection Studies that has identified a need for more support to be provided to as many as 400 children of prisoners at the Alexander Maconochie Centre. As the report and the organisation that commissioned it says, children of prisoners are too often overlooked. But it is often a moot point as to when and if governments should intervene. We know or can reasonably presume that many cases that come to Care and Protection Services are the result of dysfunctional home life. Whether it is a dysfunction caused by lack of educational opportunity, unemployment, drugs or other social or health issues, we know children can be caught up in them.

As to when government should intervene, or even if there a legal opportunity to do so, it is sometimes difficult to determine and even more difficult to manage. The Public Advocate of the ACT highlights that difficulty. The advocate’s last two annual reports have expressed concern at the difficulty of meeting demand for individual advocacy in children and young people. The 2012-13 report said that providing monitoring and oversight of services for the protection of children can be challenging with the staffing level they have—in this case, one senior advocate.

In the latest reporting year, for example, there were 29 hearings for 14 young people, an increase from 19 the previous year. At ACAT—the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal—a total of 45 young people were provided with specific mental health advocacy on 13 occasions and 48 young people were voluntarily admitted for mental health reasons. There were 44 reports of abuse or neglect of children or young people in out-of-home care affecting 41 individual children and young people. These were children or young people for whom the Director-General of the Community Services Directorate has parental responsibility.

Elsewhere, the report talks about a total of 852 children and young people being brought to the attention of the Public Advocate for a range of reasons. If you combine that figure with the number of young people currently resident in Bimberi, you have to wonder where the system broke down and what might have prevented them being sent there.

When it comes to improving outcomes for children and young people, we need to be open minded and not reject out of hand any well-reasoned and researched approach that might be presented, even from the other side of politics. I thank Mr Gentleman for bringing this matter to the Assembly for discussion.

MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Disability, Children and Young People, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Women, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (4.13): Thank you, Mr Gentleman, for bringing this matter to the Assembly today. The government

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