Page 2080 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 August 2016

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Back in March I highlighted that we have already had several reports containing recommendations about the need for better information sharing. For example, recommendation 7 of the Domestic Violence Prevention Council’s report to the Attorney-General states:

That the ACT government considers allowing information sharing between agencies (Government and non-Government) within integrated responses, with appropriate safeguards, particularly where a risk assessment indicates it is important for the purpose of protecting the safety of the victim and their immediate family.

Not long afterwards, we had the Glanfield report, the Report of the inquiry: Review into the system level responses to family violence in the ACT, led by Laurie Glanfield AM and handed down in April this year. The Glanfield report made a number of recommendations, including that legislative provisions should be made in the ACT in relation to family violence more broadly, not just in relation to children, to clearly authorise information sharing and to foster a culture of appropriate information sharing and collaboration. That was recommendation 18.

This was yet another report to tell us we need to make changes to achieve better information sharing between government agencies and directorates and non-government agencies to protect children and young people. Today, at last, we are seeing some changes coming into effect.

The bill amends the Ombudsman Act 1989 by creating a new division that expands the scope of the Ombudsman’s authority to monitor the practices and procedures of designated entities for the prevention of reportable conduct and for dealing with reportable allegations or convictions involving an employee.

In an estimates hearing on 21 June this year the ACT Ombudsman, Mr Colin Neave, spoke about the need for more staff to get the scheme up and running: page 349 of the estimates transcript of 21 June. We will be watching the implementation of this bill closely, in particular, whether or not there is duplication between what the Ombudsman does and what agencies do in conducting investigations under the new scheme and whether the Ombudsman has adequate resources to fulfil its new responsibilities under the bill, which was what was discussed in the estimates hearing.

I look forward to the minister’s response also to scrutiny report No 46 which raised several issues which it recommended the minister respond to, including the lack of detail surrounding how the Ombudsman must conduct an investigation, disclosure of information to police, and privacy and reputation of a person being investigated.

The amendments also allow the director-general responsible for the Children and Young People Act and a responsible person for approved care and protection organisations to provide information to the Commissioner for Fair Trading for the purposes of exercising their functions under the Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act. The bill will enable information to be shared between designated entities that exercise supervision and care for children and young people.

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