Page 5482 - Week 14 - Thursday, 30 November 2017

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Sharing information between and across a range of agencies is critical to protecting women and children, experiencing or at risk of experiencing family violence, and to ensure they receive the assistance they require.

Concern over the lack of information sharing in the ACT is not new. The ACT Community Law Council identified this as a problem in 1995, and it has been raised by a number of bodies and in a number of reports in the years since. Mr Glanfield concluded that avenues for sharing child protection information in fact already operated in the ACT, there being “no absolute legislative impediment” to this. But he also found “considerable reluctance to do so”, with legal constraints and a “great emphasis on privacy issues” as the apparent reasons. He also identified as factors both distrust and “a fear of breaching privacy due to the complex and confusing model operating in the territory”. For this reason, he strongly recommended specific legislation that would help shift the information-sharing culture in the ACT.

It remains to be seen whether this and the original legislation that was passed last year will be what is desperately needed to shift the information-sharing culture in this territory, but similar legislation seems to be helping in New South Wales and we can all hope that it will do the same here. I note that the Glanfield inquiry likewise recommends that:

Any legislative amendments should also be accompanied by an awareness campaign and guideline material about how information can be shared.

I fully expect the government to report back to the Assembly on what specific steps it is taking to follow this recommendation in conjunction with this legislation.

This bill also seeks to amend current legislation in order to remove private health facilities other than hospitals and ambulance services from the reportable conduct scheme. The provision is informed by data from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. But more importantly it is a measure designed to allow the Ombudsman to appropriately focus its resourcing, monitoring and oversight on the most vulnerable children and young people. This is an important amendment. As examples in New South Wales have shown, when those agencies tasked with overseeing child protection are swamped by notifications that do not actually result in statutory intervention, the diversion of valuable resources results in many other children and their families not receiving the support that they need. This is something that we must be mindful of in this territory.

As data from the AIHW reports reveals, in the two years between 2013-14 and 2015-16 the number of child protection notifications received in the ACT swelled 40 per cent, and this resulted in a 76 per cent increase in child protection investigations. Naturally we all want every credible report of possible child abuse to be investigated thoroughly, but the latest figures show the ACT having the lowest rate of substantiated investigations in the nation, at 30 per cent.

As the AIHW has made clear, having too many substantiated investigations implies that children are probably being missed by the system. At the same time, a very low

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