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Attack on child abuse



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* MINISTER FOR JUSTICE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS

Protection for victims of child abuse is substantially increased as a result of vital amendments to the Family Law Act now passed by the Commonwealth Parliament.

The Federal Minister for Justice and Consumer Affairs, Senator Michael Tate, said the legislation, which passed the Senate yesterday, improved the handling of custody and access disputes in which allegations of child abuse are made by one party against

another.

The amendments make it mandatory to report to child welfare authorities any reasonable suspicion of child abuse having occurred or being likely to occur.

"Legal protection is provided for Family Court staff who report child abuse, and provision is made for intervention by State or Territory child welfare authorities in abuse cases".

Senator Tate said one of the most shocking findings of. the 1989 report of the National Committee on Violence was that the age group most at risk to homicide in Australia was between birth and one year of age.

"This is the most extreme form of child abuse, but there are many other forms known to those who operate in the Family Court.

"In that situation the Government has acted in Parliament to clarify the law to make clear its concern and the responsibilities of those who are confronted with evidence of abuse", Senator Tate said.

He said the amendments had been guided by the findings and recommendations made by the Family Law Council in its 1988 report on child sexual abuse.

"The result is to make clear the responsibilities of court personnel and to provide them with a degree of certainty and legal protection to enable them to report their concerns to properly qualified authorities.

iS9 SENATOR MICHAEL TATE

8 March 1991

ATTACK ON CHILD ABUSE

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MiCAH

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"The State and Territory child welfare and child protection authorities have the expertise, and therefore the primary responsibility of investigation and dealing with the allegations made".

Senator Tate said he believed the bill had achieved the right balance.

"By that I mean we have tipped the balance in favour of reporting abuse to relevant authorities, to provide a chance for an abused child to be removed from the abuse, or to prevent the abuse from actually taking place".

Released by Adrian Wild - (06) 277 7260

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