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ABC Learning loses Supreme Court appeal -

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Broadcast: 03/05/2006

ABC Learning loses Supreme Court appeal

Reporter: Mick Bunworth

KERRY O'BRIEN: Over the past few months the 7:30 Report has presented several stories about the
country's largest child care operator, ABC Learning. The first of those stories examined ABC
Learning's appeal against a $200 fine imposed after a child scaled a fence at one of its centres in
Melbourne. ABC Learning argued it wasn't to blame and that total responsibility for the incident
rested with the employees on duty at the time. But in the Victorian Supreme Court today, Mr Justice
Bell dismissed the appeal. Mick Bunworth.

MICK BUNWORTH: On the face of it, all ABC Learning Centres had at stake was a $200 fine and legal
costs, but this morning's decision by Justice Bell was about so much more.

JUSTICE KEVIN BELL, VICTORIAN SUPREME COURT: The critical consideration in this case is that the
policy of the children's services about is the protection of children, young children in the
absence of their parents or guardians for potentially long periods of time during the day are an
extremely vulnerable group in our community.

MICK BUNWORTH: Three years ago a 2-year-old boy climbed the fence of this ABC Learning Centre on
the outskirts of Melbourne and wandered the surrounding streets for 10 minutes before being found
by neighbours. Victoria's Department of Human Services successfully prosecuted ABC for breaching
the Children's Services Act. ABC appealed, arguing that its staff were responsible for supervising
the child and that blame could not be shifted to the company. The appeal was dismissed this

JUSTICE KEVIN BELL: I conclude that the obligation to protect and supervise children may be
criminally enforced against both the proprietor company and its staff. Where such a company
operates a childcare centre with staff who fail to perform these obligations, the company can be
held accountable and the staff do not bear the potential liability alone.

nervous. I think they need to have confidence in the provider and if this had gone through saying
provider is not responsible, well then you have to ask who is and for staff they need to be in an
environment where they are protected against things going wrong for which they have no control.
Something that's outside of anything they can do.

MICK BUNWORTH: ABC chief executive Eddie Groves was unavailable for interview today. A company
spokesman said ABC was disappointed with the decision and was reviewing its options.If that case
continues, so will our stories.

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