Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 24 August 2017) . . Page.. 3338 ..
MR RATTENBURY: I make it perfectly clear that came under female accommodation pressure at the AMC, but Mrs Jones continues to suggest—and Mr Coe has picked up her baton today and run with it—that there are 45 women in a space designed for 29. That is simply not true. The AMC management responded to that pressure by opening additional areas for female accommodation. My colleagues are right to be concerned about these issues; they are issues I take very seriously and spend a lot of time working on. But let’s have a little bit of honesty and a little bit of integrity in how we approach these issues. Members of the opposition continue to try to imply that people are sleeping on floors or in corridors. That is simply not the case; we have the space for all of those detainees at the AMC.
Yes, we have a job to do. It is a challenge as to why so many women are suddenly coming into custody. We have real problems with the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in our corrections system. But this is a problem that we face across the country and it is a problem that we have faced for decades. That is why the ACT government is putting resources into justice reinvestment strategies, like the Yarrabi Bamirr program that we are running in partnership with the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal health centre: to avoid people coming into custody. These things have been cultural problems for decades and we are striving to work on them.
I do not come into this place claiming we have got it right either. There is more work to be done, and that is why we are actively working on implementing all of the recommendations from the Moss review, despite Ms Tongs’s letter in the paper today. I think she was wrong about that, and I will have that conversation with her. Things are changing at the AMC. We continue to strive to do better for our people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, and I am happy to have that discussion.
But today I thank Ms Berry and Labor Party members for their support for this motion. It is important that as a community we are able to canvass a range of issues of concern to Canberra citizens. It is well and truly time that we saw a change in policy by the Australian government when it comes to dealing with people in detention. Keeping them in places like Papua New Guinea is not acceptable. I have spent a bit of time in Papua New Guinea and I know the cultural homogeneity of Papua New Guinea and the fact that these refugees will not be welcome in those communities, yet here in Australia we have communities that are willing to welcome them. That is what we should be focused on: getting the right outcome here for people who are fleeing persecution and who have taken dangerous journeys because they believe they have no other option.
I commend this motion to the Assembly. I thank members of the Labor Party for their support, and I encourage all members of this place to continue to advocate for a better policy by the Australian government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Health, Ageing and Community Services—Standing Committee
MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee) (12.06): I present the following paper: