Legislation increases safety net for children and young people

Released 02/08/2016

Today the ACT Government passed legislation to establish an improved reportable conduct scheme in Canberra to ensure allegations of child abuse are properly investigated.

The new scheme puts an appropriate level of scrutiny on organisations that are investigating the conduct of employees in relation to allegations of child abuse. It has been developed in response to the Royal Commission into abuse or neglect of children and young people. The work of the Royal Commission, and the strong advocacy of Mr Damien De Marco, the 2015 ACT Local Hero, have helped draw attention to the need for increased scrutiny and accountability of organisations that provide services to children.

COAG has agreed, in-principle, to the ACT’s proposal that all states and territories develop nationally harmonised reportable conduct schemes, and Victoria has also committed to introducing a similar scheme.

The Legislation passed today also addresses issues identified by the Glanfield Inquiry that ACT Government agencies and non government agencies must improve their processes for sharing information. The Glanfield Inquiry specifically identified the provisions now in place in New South Wales as ones that should be adopted in the ACT and with this new legislation, this will now occur.

Elements of the bill that relate to information sharing take effect immediately, enabling key ACT Government staff to share information more easily and work collaboratively in the operation of Working with Vulnerable People Checks and child protection reporting. The wider scheme will commence in July 2017.

This Government is committed to addressing the recommendations of the Glanfield Inquiry, and this new reportable conduct scheme is part of the landmark Safer Families package introduced in the 2016/17 ACT Budget. The $21.42 million funding package provides essential support and services to families in the ACT, and is fundamental to the government’s program of work to support social inclusion and equality in Canberra.

When the new scheme commences in July 2017, the ACT Ombudsman will act as the independent oversight body, with increased statutory responsibility and powers to provide an additional safety net to better protect children and young people. Child protection is a matter for all states and territories, and at the most recent meeting of COAG in April this year, the Government proposed that that all states and territories, with the support of the Commonwealth, progress work to develop nationally harmonised reportable conduct schemes.

The ACT Government also received strong support from stakeholders and community members during recent community consultations and is committed to ensuring we develop the strongest possible reportable scheme for the ACT by continuing to involve stakeholders in the development of the scheme leading up to its formal commencement in July 2017.

- Statement ends -

Section: Andrew Barr, MLA | Media Releases

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