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Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment Bill 2019

Thank you, Madam Speaker. For the past three years, it has been my privilege to speak in defence of the rights of children. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so again today. Only a few months after becoming a member of the Legislative Assembly, I raised concerns about whether the government’s Family and Personal Violence Amendment Bill adequately protected kids.

Between then and now, I have repeatedly advocated for the right to have care and protection decisions involving children subject to external merits review. Multiple times, I have stated that kids in ACT schools have the right to be safe. I have called on the government to work with accredited organisations to provide new parents with better information about preventing and responding to child sexual abuse. I have raised concerns about kids in the territory’s out-of-home care system. I strongly supported legislative changes designed to make it harder for people to hide the abuse of children. And I have unashamedly defended the rights of children in our youth detention centre.

In all cases, I have advocated for the voices of kids to be heard. Just last month, I specifically called on the government to tell us how children’s and young people’s voices have been included in ongoing consultations. Today I rise, Madam Speaker, to support young people’s voices once again. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard many examples of the difficulties and traumas faced by child victims and witnesses within the criminal justice system. The clear recommendation was to introduce intermediaries tasked with making sure that kids both understand questions and are heard clearly. This bill establishes the legislative framework that will make this happen, and I am deeply satisfied to be able to support it.

One of the concerns that I had when I first learnt of this proposal was that it might be too limited in application. I am pleased therefore that the bill we are debating today prescribes the appointment of intermediaries for child complainants in sexual offence proceedings and for children who have witnessed a homicide but also allows for the appointment of intermediaries for any others who may struggle to be heard and understood by police officers, magistrates and/or juries.

We know that there are families in Canberra whose experiences with the criminal justice system would have been much easier if this scheme had already been in place. I am grateful to know that any future victims in this territory will be far better served because of the changes that this bill introduces. I join with the rest of the Canberra Liberals in endorsing these amendments. Thank you.

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