Proposed changes to support Official Visitors to enhance human rights protections

Released 15/08/2019

Changes to support official visitors to provide more consistent, independent oversight of Government institutions and community facilities have today been introduced in the Legislative Assembly.

Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury today introduced the Official Visitor Amendment Bill 2019.

Official visitors (OVs) are independent statutory office holders who visit a range of places where vulnerable people live and receive care. These include mental health facilities, disability accommodation, residential out of home care, homelessness services, prison and youth justice facilities. They serve as the 'eyes and ears' for the Minister responsible for the place, giving them a picture of what is happening inside these facilities, and identifying any systemic problems in the treatment of vulnerable people.

The proposed amendments to strengthen the role of Official Visitors will:

  • Clearly define the role of official visitors in identifying and reporting systemic issues of concern as well as resolving individual complaints
  • improves the coverage and flexibility of the Scheme by allowing official visitors from one discipline to cover for OV's in another area, to ensure coverage during periods of leave or due to retirement or resignation
  • allow official visitors to visit a broader range of visitable places by including independent accommodation provided by specialist homelessness services
  • requires visitable places to provide information to people about their right to contact official visitors
  • strengthens the role of the Official Visitor Board to oversee the operation of the official visitor scheme
  • creates a role for an executive officer to support official visitors in their functions.

Comments attributable to Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury:

"Today I'm pleased to introduce changes to ensure that the role of our Official Visitors is as effective and consistent as possible."

"The ACT is a proud human rights jurisdiction. In every area of Government, we're obliged to do what we can to ensure that human rights of all Canberrans, particularly vulnerable Canberrans, are being protected and enhanced. These amendments will further empower our official visitors to assist in achieving this."

- Statement ends -

Section: Shane Rattenbury, MLA | Media Releases

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