Child Protection

The ‘Lost, not forgotten’ report of Victoria’s Commissioner for Children and Young People is a chilling read, and reveals continued failures across child protection and family services. The findings of this report are unacceptable, and we need to prioritise sustained funding to address the root cause that leaves vulnerable children exposed. We need to stop failing these children.

Constituency question- Yarrawonga/Mulwala Bridge

My constituency question is for the Minister for Roads.

It is about the longstanding desire of my constituents in Yarrawonga and surrounding areas for a new Yarrawonga-Mulwala bridge crossing to be constructed.

Amendment- Serious Offenders and Other Matters Bill 2019

As I outlined in my speech earlier, the purpose here is really quite simple, I am merely seeking to ensure that the government takes the step of proactively advising the relevant victims of crime of their right, a right already enshrined in law, to receive a share of a compensation payout. That is, I am asking that a relevant victim or victims are notified by the government as soon as a compensation payment of $10 000 or more is awarded to a particular, current or former prisoner or person on remand. Under the way this presently operates, some victims are never told about such a thing at all. Through this amendment I am not objecting to the reasons for these compensation payouts, nor am I seeking to disrupt or even amend the fundamentals of the government’s existing policy on the Prisoner Compensation Quarantine Fund itself. What I am doing is trying to improve the way it is administered. One thing that I did not do in my speech earlier, which may be appropriate for me to do now, is to quickly cite some of the words of the relevant Labor minister at the time when the relevant parts of the Corrections Act 1986 were first introduced into the Parliament in 2008. Then Minister for Corrections, Bob Cameron, said on 31 July 2008 that the Brumby government was: “committed to empowering victims to exercise all of their available rights and remedies to seek compensation” … He also spoke of the need to: …” address the situation where an offender receives an award of damages from the state and therefore has a much improved financial situation. Victims can then choose to take advantage of that improved financial situation”. And he spoke of: … “the perceived inequity when offenders are seen to use the law for their own purposes through pursuing compensation arising from their circumstances in custody”.

In many respects I could not put it better myself, given that I think those sentiments would be best honoured in practice by making sure that victims know of this entitlement each time it arises. I commend this amendment to the house.

Members Statement- Yarrunga Primary School

Yarrunga Primary School is a place of Big Ideas, Dreams and Wonderings.  It’s a school where the curriculum is delivered a bit differently, and with solid results so far.  Students have a say in what they want to learn about – things that make them curious, that make them question and wonder.  This style of engagement and integrating their wonderings into the curriculum has improved student attendance, behaviour and results. 

Adjournment- Working with children checks

In the last sitting week, through an adjournment matter for the Attorney-General, I raised a number of concerns associated with the application of working with children checks in the sporting arena. I am afraid I am returning to pose a similar matter to her again tonight. A fortnight ago my adjournment speech related to martial arts; this evening it relates to Australian Rules Football. It follows two recent cases of convicted sex offenders avoiding certain vetting requirements in order to become directly involved in junior football. One came to public attention in May, when it was revealed a recidivist sex offender was allowed to umpire matches, reportedly partly because of a favourable reference from a very senior figure in the AFL. The other case made headlines last month, when an already frequent perpetrator was convicted again, this time of an indecent act after gaining access to his young male victim by infiltrating a football club as a financial sponsor.

Both stories are deeply disturbing. They also raise numerous questions, including whether there are problems in the processes for working with children checks merely in some sports or whether they are more widespread across Victorian sport in general. At the very least the fact that the issues currently appear significant across at least two sports should be provoking serious cause for concern. Indeed I would be surprised if these two recent cases alone had not prompted government and sporting officials to have launched their own urgent investigations into why and how working with children checks are often being evaded.

At the end of my contribution about martial arts two weeks ago, I asked the Attorney-General if she would consider meeting to discuss a practical new initiative I believe might solve many of the current problems in working with children checks in the area of sporting. I am still very keen for that meeting to occur. However, a further action that I would also now like to seek from her is that she indicate what reporting and review mechanisms are in place that allow the Department of Justice and Community Safety to identify cases where a working with children check has been issued in error and/or where a check of someone’s suitability to work with children should have been conducted but has not been. I would also be grateful if she could disclose the number of cases that have fallen into each of those two categories since the commencement of the state’s working with children checks scheme, specifically including the area of junior sport.

Constituency Question- Kinglake fuel load

My question is to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. It relates to the mounting concerns about the now extreme rating of fuel loads in Victoria’s east central fire zone, covering many towns in my electorate.

Adjournment- PANDA Week

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health.
I raise the awareness of the annual PANDA Week across Australia in this chamber as it is so near and dear to my heart.
PANDA is an acronym for Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness and, in 2019, the theme for the week (which runs from 10th to 16th November) is “let’s get real”.  It’s a theme which aims to focus the minds of all Australians on the reality that perinatal anxiety and depression are common and serious. Indeed, as a measure of exactly how common they are, it’s worth noting that around 1 in 5 new or expecting mothers and up to 1 in 10 new fathers are likely to suffer from anxiety and/or depression within the period from a child’s conception to 12 months after their birth.

To add to that picture, these are conditions that do not discriminate.  They can very easily affect any new or expecting parent.  They can also escalate very quickly, especially as many people often feel an intense guilt or shame about such emotions and are therefore afraid even to open up about such issues.  The escalation of these problems is not hard to understand, of course, given that those affected will typically be surrounded by friends and loved ones who are (in complete contrast to them) feeling great excitement and joy about the prospect of a new arrival to the family. Against that backdrop, one of the key aims of PANDA Week is to widely emphasise the point that such depression and anxiety is actually nothing to be ashamed about – and that supporting new and expecting parents, and monitoring their wellbeing, is always important.

Now, I know the Minister will be well aware of PANDA Week and very likely participating in a number of events and activities associated with it. So, to build on that and in a completely apolitical spirit, the action that I seek from her through this adjournment is the provision of advice about what Victorians can best do, the whole year round, in the name of supporting anyone suffering from perinatal anxiety or depression. As part of that, I would also ask the Minister if she could list resources that are specifically made available by the Victorian Government (including the URLs of relevant web pages, and the names and numbers of relevant contacts) for people who are seeking help in managing, treating and reducing the impact of these two conditions.

Question without Notice- TAFE access

My question is to the Minister for Training and Skills, Minister Tierney.

There are more than 82,000 students across Victoria currently sitting VCE exams.  We know that, even amid the elation of finishing secondary school, many young people will face an anxious time as they seek entry into further education or fields of employment that require successful completion of specific subjects.

In regional areas, this stress is often compounded by the high rates of youth unemployment, limited public transport and the tyranny of distance.

Minister: which TAFE’s in Northern Victoria provide enrolment for singular VCE subjects to students who have finished secondary school but who still need to complete a further VCE subject (or subjects), particularly to satisfy entry requirements for university, other further study and/or a specific career?

Adjournment- Cross Border Issues

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Regional Development. It is about cross-border issues and problems and the impact on many of my constituents of the myriad differences in laws, regulations and conventions across state borders, especially for those living close to New South Wales and South Australia.

Constituency Question- Dairy Industry

My Constituency question to the State Government asked which new measures and improvements were being put in place to urgently address the devastating situation in the dairy industry across Northern Victoria.