Today the ACT Government introduced legislation to establish an improved reportable conduct scheme, in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The work of the Royal Commission and the strong advocacy of Mr Damien De Marco, an ACT Local Hero of the Year, has drawn attention to the need to improve independent oversight of organisations that provide services to children.
The creation of a reportable conduct scheme in the ACT will ensure there is objective scrutiny of any organisation responsible for children which is investigating the conduct of employees alleged to have committed child abuse.
The new $1.3 million scheme is part of the landmark Safer Families package introduced in the 2016/17 ACT Budget. The $21.4 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.
Under the scheme, the ACT Ombudsman will have the power to independently oversee, examine, and report on any allegation of abuse committed in ACT schools, daycare centres, sporting clubs and other organisations that have primary responsibility for the care of children.
Organisations where an allegation of abuse has been made against an employee will be required to inform the Ombudsman, and advise the Ombudsman what action being taken to investigate the allegation. This will stop allegations being “swept under the rug” and alleged offenders being moved around to escape investigation, as has occurred in the past.
The Ombudsman’s strong new oversight powers will also help to assure the community that investigations into allegations of child abuse against employees will be carefully monitored and reviewed by an independent statutory body.
The scheme is modelled on the effective scheme currently operating in NSW, and builds on the existing measures already in place in the ACT, including Working with Vulnerable People Checks
Child protection is a matter for all states and territories, and at the most recent meeting of COAG in April this year the ACT proposed that that all states and territories, with the support of the Commonwealth, progress work to develop nationally harmonised reportable conduct schemes.
COAG has agreed in-principle to the ACT’s proposal that all states and territories develop nationally harmonised reportable conduct schemes.
The Bill also addresses issues identified by the Glanfield Inquiry that government agencies and non government agencies must improve their processes for sharing information. Mr Glanfield specifically identified the provisions now in place in New South Wales as examples that should be adopted in the ACT. This Government is committed to addressing the recommendations of the Glanfield Inquiry and facilitating better information sharing amongst agencies is an important first step.
The ACT Government thanks stakeholders and community members who participated in consultations on the Bill. The Government will ensure we establish the strongest possible reportable scheme for the ACT by continuing to involve stakeholders up to its commencement in July 2017.
- Statement ends -
Section: Andrew Barr, MLA | Media Releases