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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2060

Senator NEAL —My question is directed to the Minister for Family Services. I refer the Senate to the meeting of Commonwealth, state and territory community services ministers held in Perth on Monday of this week. Can the minister inform the Senate what agreement was reached by state and federal ministers to tackle the problem of child abuse and neglect?

Senator CROWLEY —I thank Senator Neal for her question because the agreement reached at the Commonwealth-state ministers meeting was a very significant initiative. The Commonwealth has taken a very important step in establishing a very significant agreement with the states to implement the national prevention strategy for child abuse and neglect. The strategy is aimed at tackling the problem of child abuse and breaking the generational cycle of abuse.

  An increasing number of cases of child abuse and neglect has emerged, to the point where we can say the community is becoming quite shocked at the size and sort of problem. I do not believe Daniel Valerio is a sole case. While I do not wish to single out any particular case, I am aware that all our communities recognise the very significant increase in the sort and size of the child abuse problem. In this International Year of the Family, I believe that it is very appropriate that we now have a very significant agreement for this national prevention strategy.

  The Commonwealth will have responsibility for a national education program and funding for national research. The states will have responsibility for parent support, particularly network services at the local community, and for child education as well as parent education and related matters. With the emerging number of cases, we are realising that our services to date, by and large, have been devoted to picking up the pieces after the damage has been done. It is no longer satisfactory to rest on that kind of arrangement. It is very important that we establish processes for early intervention and even prevention in this area of child abuse—whatever that sort of child abuse is. We should be very celebratory that the Commonwealth and the states have reached this agreement. We look forward to the implementation of this strategy making a difference in terms of the protection of our children.