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.

Member Statement- Day for Daniel 2019

My colleague Stuart Grimley and I were privileged to join the sea of red on the Sunshine Coast last Friday for the annual Day for Daniel, a national day of action to raise funds and awareness for the Daniel Morcombe Foundation.  Denise and Bruce Morcombe attended our #ENOUGHISENOUGH rally in Wangaratta in 2016 and it was wonderful to see them again and support Day for Daniel.

The day that Daniel Morcombe was abducted is etched in the minds and hearts of Australians.  So too, is the heartbreak of the days, weeks, months and years that followed, a time of torment for Daniel’s family who were desperate for their son to be returned to them.  Daniel Morcombe should be approaching his 30th birthday this December, he should have been a teenager, finished school, got his licence, pursued further study or work, found love, all of the experiences in the journey from child to adult.

From the depths of their despair, Denise and Bruce Morcombe established the Daniel Morcombe Foundation to promote child safety.  The Foundation is widely acclaimed and provides educational resources to schools, parents, carers and children; as well as direct support to young survivors of crime.

In the last year, there were more than 10,000 victims of crime across Victoria who were children.  More than half of these children were aged under 14. We MUST ensure the protection of children, the safety of children, is our highest priority. I thank Bruce and Denise Morcombe for their work, their courage, their dedication, to keeping children safe.  And we will never forget Daniel.

Motion- Murray Basin Rail Project

I will resume my speech from 16 October by re-stating the basic purpose of this motion, from the perspective of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party.
Primarily, it is intended to be an information-seeking exercise … one that gives Victorians more detail about the future of the Murray Basin Rail Project.
This is through requesting that the lead Minister, Jacinta Allan, attend a public meeting to provide information and answer questions in relation to the project.

Motion- Youth Justice

This motion requests that the Government provide new information about issues of very significant concern to many Victorians. In essence the motion asks for that information in two forms. The first is that members of the government provide us with their latest thinking on how they intend to strengthen the security of the state’s youth justice centres between now and the planned opening in 2021 of the Cherry Creek facility. The second is that they release a full version of the 2018 interim evaluation of their youth crime prevention grants (YCPG) program rather than the very abbreviated one that remains the only publicly available version of that report.

I know that the management of individuals in youth detention is an issue that has been debated on a recurring basis for many years in this place. Clearly it is an extremely vexed and difficult problem, no matter which side of politics is in government or whether it is in Victoria or any other part of the world. I completely understand, respect and acknowledge that. In fact it is for that reason that Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party is asking for the two things that we are through this motion, because we hope that a discussion and resolution of each of these two points might help inform improvements to the current arrangements.

In relation to fortifying security and safety at the youth justice centres, it remains very clear that we have two largely overcrowded facilities at Malmsbury and Parkville that are no longer fit for purpose in their current form. Given the limitations on me this afternoon in terms of time I will not delve in extensive detail into the numbers of the despicable ongoing attacks on the custodial officers at those two facilities nor the recent announcement that on the basis of a detainee’s attack on an employee at Malmsbury in 2018 WorkSafe has officially charged the Department of Justice and Community Safety with failing to provide a safe workplace there. However, I will briefly cite the Herald Sun’s recent revelations that at least 60 workers across the centres are now too traumatised and/or injured from assaults on them to return to work. More broadly, according to a report in the Age the CPSU says there were 311 assaults on staff in the first 120 days of this year and that as many as 29 detainee-on-detainee assaults were even reported on a single day in September.

Against that background I am asking through the motion if government members can simply give us all an understanding of what work is currently being done and will continue to be done during this term of Parliament to address these terrible realities. I ask this partly because of an unfortunate chain of events in late September and early October. On 27 September the government issued a media release outlining some changes in its future plans for the operations of the state’s youth justice facilities. This concentrated exclusively on how the Malmsbury and Cherry Creek centres would be used and how Parkville would continue to be used once the construction of Cherry Creek is completed in 2021. Yet within a matter of days after that there was another wave of attacks at Malmsbury and the spectre of staff actually walking off the job on account of safety fears. As trite as this remark possibly sounds, it is abundantly clear that things cannot simply continue as they are and/or that significant changes have been largely placed on hold as we wait for the planned reorganisation of the facilities in 2021. Something more has to be done in the meantime. Victorians also need answers on the public record about what that something is.

That is a basic summary of what the first part of the motion asks. To move to the second request in the motion, about the youth crime prevention grants program, it is the position of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party that there must always be a strong emphasis in the state’s justice system on the importance of primary prevention and early intervention. On the cause of trying to reduce the number of troubled youths and youth offenders and lowering the numbers of young people in detention, we regard the importance of these two considerations as being paramount.

At least $17 million has already been spent on the YCPG program over a period dating back to 2016. This includes, for example, around $1.4 million on the ReBoot program, which is targeted specifically at children aged from 10 to 14 who have already engaged in low-level offending and/or have a potential for future criminal behaviour. Unfortunately, though—and this was confirmed from an adjournment response that I received from Minister Carroll about ReBoot earlier this year—there does not seem to have yet been a full evaluation of whether this money is being well targeted and well spent in helping to reduce the proclivity to crime among young Victorians.

I am not suggesting that the money is not being used effectively, and I do have very genuine respect for Mr Carroll and think he is sincerely committed to these goals. However, from outside of government it is impossible to know the answer about this expenditure when all that has apparently been completed to date in this sense has been an interim report in October 2018. To add to this picture, the only part of that document that ever appears to have been made public is an excerpt of just two out of the 109 pages. I do accept that there is apparently an ongoing, fuller evaluation being undertaken and hope to see it whenever it is finalised. Again, though, it is unclear if and when this report will ever be made available, and I do think it is critical, even before then and as a matter of urgency, that the Victorian public is given access to far more of the information that is already in the government’s possession about how well this program and all of its individual elements are or are not working. These evaluations lead to the basis of reforms and resources to be applied to support and assist these young people through that crucial early intervention and primary prevention.

If we want to reduce the number of our young people here in Victoria becoming a part of the justice system, we need to do more. We need to do more preventative work on the ground. In this policy area, and in an era in which the challenges of managing youth crime remain especially problematic, it is absolutely critical that we know whether such programs are well focused. Are they fit for purpose? Are they correctly targeted? And are they actually proving to be effective? If they are not, then they need to be replaced. It is as simple as that. They need to be reprogramed. They need to look at other ways to support these young people. And in the meantime I would like to see further commitment to providing the transparency of these reports. I would like to commend this motion to the house.