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Community work order scheme



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on Thursday, 29 July 1976, when Mr Staley will deliver the "O sp-

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E M B A R G O E DTHE MINISTER FOR THE CAPITAL TERRITORY

The Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Tony Staley, plans to introduce a

community work order scheme as an alternative to jail for some people convicted

in ACT courts. .

The scheme will enable the courts to order a convicted adult to work for up to

eight hours a week for a set period on community projects.

The offender will continue to live at h o m e . .

Mr Staley announced the community work order scheme at the annual meeting tonight ■5 " . ' ■

of the Canberra Civil Rehabilitation Committee. .

He explained that the community work would be done at places like aged-persons'

homes, child-care centres and homes of the physically handicapped.

The work would be the type not normally done by trade unionists.

Mr Staley said the proposed scheme would ensure some punishment for an offender

and make restitution to the community, but it would avoid the permanent damage and

heartbreak of imprisonment. ' '

A Bill f o r the scheme would be sent to the ACT Legislative Assembly within

three weeks. If approved by the Assembly, the scheme would be introduced as soon

as possible. .

Mr Staley also told the meeting that he had asked his Department to review the

ACT Child Welfare Ordinance.. . .

He said the present ordinance, which became law in 1958, was outmoded in its

concepts, its legislative provisions and its terminology. ..

It had.been criticised by the judiciary, by the press and by workers in the field,

and it failed to protect adequately the rights of children or to distinguish

between offenders and those offended against.

Mr Staley said he would have a paper prepared as soon as possible setting out the

issues involved in. updating the ordinance. .

The paper would then become the basis of public debate and suggestions from .

interested people and organisations.

Mr Staley said he looked forward to the outcome of the recent review of child-

welfare laws in NSW because of the comprehensive investigations that had been made

Mr Staley foreshadowed a significant increase in the annual subsidy to the Canberra

Civil Rehabilitation Committee. The subsidy had stood at $100 a year since the

committee was established in 1962. . . . . . . . . . . . .

29 July 1976.

SPEECH BY THE MINISTER FOITJHE CAPITAL TERRITORY, MR. TONY STALEY TO THE ANNUAL MEETING OF CANBERRA CIVIL REHABILITATION COMMITTEE THURSDAY, 29 JULY 1976 .

Mr. Chairman, thank you, etc.

It was in May, I think, that you asked me to address this, your

Annual Meeting. At that time the member for Canberra, John

Haslem, who was a member of your Committee for some nine years,

serving a time as your President, told me your Committee "is

a very worthy body".

Now, I would take John Haslem's word for that without

question: but his enthusiasm for the work you are doing spurred

me on to.find out more about your activities.

I find that the Canberra Civil Rehabilitation Committee was

established in 1962. Its purpose was to co-ordinate the efforts

of church and social welfare bodies which sought to return

ex-prisoners to society as efficiently and as easily as possible

for the ex-prisoners.

I am happy to note that the Liberal-Country Party Government

of that day helped by providing modest assistance, with your

administrative work and by providing an annual grant of $100.

Without revealing details of the 1976-77 Budget I hope that the

Liberal-Country Party Government of today will be increasing your

annual grant very significantly. Such a hope springs from support

for your aims o f :

.Providing for released prisoners and convicted people an

opportunity to rehabilitate themselves; '

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.Co-operation with field workers of the probation and parole

officers to provide an extension service for prisoners released

on licence;

.Achieving a better community understanding of the problems of

helping former prisoners to rehabilitate themselves; and

•Assisting dependants of prisoners with material help and with

advice.

While I congratulate you on your fine record I'm sure you

will all agree that the energies spent to rehabilitate ex-prisoners

would, in the great majority of cases, be far better spent on

rehabilitating offenders without having to place them in a

conventional jail at all. .

' Why? Because it has been put, and I agree with the proposition,

that traditional penal policies have failed to achieve the

desired result. Prisons will continue to be a necessary evil for

some time. They will continue to be needed for about 5 to 20

per cent of the present-day prison population in the interests of

protecting the community. That is the only reason why people should

be imprisoned. . Jails should be the last resort. The remaining

80 per cent of today's prisoners seem to be in prison as a form

of punishment. I believe it is more important to treat offenders

within their community. I believe this, not only because such a

course is less of a burden to taxpayers, but because it is also a

tribute to man's intrinsic dignity, and it is less destructive to the

offender, to his family and to the community.

There is a tendency for people to regard Liberals as conservative

on social issues but I do not think that this is a fact. I certainly

see a great need for a completely new approach to the treatment of

people who have offended against our laws. As I have said, there

are some people who must be imprisoned as a protection for the

community.

What I think we should seek to avoid is the unnecessary and

destructive imprisonment of a high proportion of offenders. At

the same time I have every sympathy with the person who has his

property smashed or stolen. I believe the offender who has stolen

this property should be made to make restitution without destroying

his character and future expectations in the community.

There are two problems with such an approach: it is difficult

to ensure restitution in the case of offences against prople; and

it is difficult to ensure that the offender has the money or work

skills to make restitution in the cases of offences against

property.

There have been a number of examples recently of courts and

magistrates requiring vandals to restore park seats and benches,

or to clean graffiti off public toilets. This sort of action ensures

some punishment for the offender, makes restitution to the community

and at the same time avoids the permanent damage and heartbreak

of imprisonment.

This is the sort of philosophy behind the community work order

schemes which I understand are operating successfully in Britain,

New Zealand and Tasmania.

I have asked the Department of the Capital Territory, therefore

to introduce such a scheme in the A.C.T.

I understand that the appropriate bill for this scheme can be

put to the A.C.T. Legislative Assembly within two or three weeks.

If the Legislative Assembly approves the legislation, I hope to be

able to. introduce the scheme as soon as possible thereafter.

The scheme will enable the courts to order a convicted adult

offender to work for up to eight hours a week for a set period on

community projects. The scheme will be tailored to ensure that the

offender's community work, for which there will be no pay, will not

interfere with the offender's normal work. The offender will

continue to live at home. "

The work for the community will be at places like aged-persons'

homes, child-care centres, homes for the physically handicapped,

and the homes of pensioners or other people with particular needs.

The work will not be of the type normally done by trade unionists.

The scheme, which does involve punishment, has a degree of

rehabilitative and therapeutic elements in t h a t .it allows offenders

to take satisfaction in paying something back to the community, and

pride in being involved in welfare work to help the less fortunate

people in our community. .

Initially, the scheme will be restricted to 20 offenders at any

one time so that benefits of the scheme can be assessed.

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I appreciate that a ,community work order scheme is only a

beginning and that we should be aiming to give the courts the

fullest possible range of alternatives when considering the best

course to adopt for a particular offender. As resources permit

this is what we will do. '

I would say, as a kind of an aside, that unfortunately society

in general seems to have a vested interest in maintaining the

status quo of crime. .

We spend thousands of millions of dollars in various areas of

rehabilitation; and this expenditure underscores society's failure

to prepare adequately some of its members for the realities of life.

It seems to me that the ultimate ideal is to divert much of

the expenditure on rehabilitation to more positive programs of

habilitation.

Maybe some branch of research one day will tell us how to

identify the potential offenders against society mores, enabling

society to provide the appropriate habilitative therapy before

society finds itself outraged by an offence against it.

For the immediate future, however, we now have in Canberra an

adult remand centre. It is to open in September. The centre will

accommodate up to 18 people. The fact that the centre must be

staffed for 24 hours a day 7 days a week, makes it very labour­

intensive. Because of this, the centre will need a total staff

of 31.

There is one other matter of importance I would like to mention.

I have asked my department to review completely the A.C.T. Child

Welfare Ordinance.

This Ordinance, which became law in 1958, is based on earlier

N.S.W. legislation which, in turn, reflected the philosophy of an

earlier era.

These days it is anachronistic. It is outmoded in its concepts,

its legislative provisions and its terminology.

It has been criticised by the judiciary, by the press and by

workers in the field.

It fails to protect adequately against the rights of children

and to differentiate between offenders and those against whom there

is an offence.

We face the task of bringing : this important legislation into the

final quarter of the 20th century.

Because we presently use N.S.W. institutions.for some of our

juveniles, we need to ensure that our legislative provisions in certain

basic matters are similar to those in the relevant N.S.W. legislation.

Some of these basic matters are the age of criminal responsibility,

and the age which determines whether juvenile or adult court

proceedings will be followed.

The N.S.W. Government reviewed recently its child-welfare laws.

I await with interest the outcome of the review in N.S.W. because

of the comprehensive investigations that have been made there.

Any review implying as a product the formulation of a new

philosophy, new concepts and a new approach is necessarily time­

consuming and difficult.

This is particularly so when it directly involves human

rights, and that, basically, is what the Child Welfare Ordinance

is about.

I expect that changes to the law will arouse community interest.

The judiciary and the.Council of Social Service have already

expressed interest and sought involvement. Any proposed changes

most likely will create also considerable controversy within

professional circles and within the community as a whole. Such

concern is, of course, healthy. Careful thought and close

consideration must be given to any proposals that infringe as

directly on human freedoms and protections as will proposals

concerning the Child Welfare Ordinance.

It is an area in which value conflict is inherent and there are

few easy answers.

Some of the issues which require deep and earnest considerations

are:

.The age of criminal responsibility, and the upper age limits

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of Juvenile jurisdiction;

. % .The possible need for clearer separation of the criminal law

functions and the welfare functions of children's courts;

.To what extent should we move away from the juvenile court

structure, for example to juvenile aid panels as in South

Australia and as recommended by Judge Muir for N.S.W., or

does the courts system offer a protection that should be retained

in full? Of course in these matters there is a need to co-operate

with the Attorney-General1s Department which administers the courts;

.What legal respresentation for children is needed?

!

.What protections are needed to safeguard against possible

infringements on human rights and justice that may arise in

situations involving closed proceedings and official discretion?

.What are the most effective ways of implementing adequate systems

of appeal and review?

.What alternatives should there be to indeterminate wardship of

both offenders and non-offenders?

.What rights, responsibilities and freedoms of the child, his

family and society must we look to as philosophic and practical

issues?

.The need for legislative provision for family support. Are

additional facilities and services necessary to meet the welfare

function? Can these be provided?

.The redefinition of such concepts as "neglected child" and

"uncontrollable child";

.The respective powers of police and welfare authorities in relation

to children; .

.The admissibility in evidence of a "confession" made by a

juvenile;

.Licensing for child-care centres;

.The employment of children.

I expect it will take several months of research and

consultation with interested people and organisations before

a firm proposal can be put forward.

But it is my intention to have a document prepared setting

out the issues as soon as possible

The paper will then be made public for debate in and suggestions

from the A.C.T. community.

Only after these exhaustive procedures will I be satisfied that

we have the basis for a model child-welfare law.

When I am sure of that, I shall take steps to have an ordinance

drafted.

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It is a glib to say let's do it all now: what we want is a law

which does what its name says - looks to the real welfare of our

children.