Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 14 Hansard (Thursday, 30 November 2017) . . Page.. 5483 ..
rate of substantiations suggests that important resources are being drained away from the most vulnerable. It is difficult to know where the perfect balance between these two extremes lies, but it is important that our child protection system not be overwhelmed with reporting that is statistically unlikely to increase the number of children and young people who are kept safe. Such reporting may in fact reduce that number. I commend this bill to the Assembly.
MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (6.30): Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of this amendment bill. I note that this an important step to bring the legislation in line with recommendations in relation to information-sharing powers from both the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the Glanfield report on the review of system-level responses to family violence in the ACT.
The absolute priority here is the need for children and young people to be safe from harm. It is extremely important that, where there are allegations of harm and risk to children and young people, information about their welfare and safety must be available to child protection, law enforcement and relevant oversight bodies to ensure that the best possible outcomes can be achieved.
I am pleased that this amendment includes the requirement for designated entities to have practices and procedures to deal with reportable conduct, because it is vitally important that health services, schools, childcare services and services providing out of home care must be prepared and equipped to respond to allegations of abuse of children and/or young people.
All too often there is a human tendency to think, “This will not happen on my watch or in my organisation.” This requirement ensures that if and when it does, the organisation will already know how to respond. This amendment bill aligns with our responsibilities as a human rights jurisdiction and upholds important aspects of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in that we must act to ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence and sexual abuse.
For me, what follows is the need to not only protect them from such abuse but also provide timely and appropriate support services to those who have suffered abuse as children if they have not been adequately protected. This is because the effects of such abuse can be lifelong and can have serious adverse effects on a child’s trajectory into adulthood. All too often we see drug and alcohol used as a means of self-medicating against the pain, or the advent of mental health issues that can seriously affect a person’s ability to participate in community life. In many cases this leads to contact with the criminal justice system, either as a repeat victim or an offender.
I am looking forward to the second bill that will be introduced in April 2018 to expand the scheme to include religious organisations that provide pastoral care and religious instruction. This is a gap in the existing legislation that I have already spoken about and drawn attention to. In some ways, the fact they were not included in the first iteration astounds me, given that the overwhelming majority of child sexual abuse examined through the royal commission was perpetrated in religious organisations providing a range of pastoral and spiritual care services and activities.