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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3170

Senator AULICH —Is the Minister for Community Services aware that a federally funded family day care service in Launceston has refused to employ a carer who is registered by the State Government in Tasmania, the refusal ostensibly being based on the scurrilous rumours that she is a prostitute? Is there any truth in these rumours? If not, what can the Minister do about the service?

Senator GRIMES —Yes, I am aware of the situation referred to by Senator Aulich. It has been brought to my attention as Minister for Community Services and, therefore, Minister responsible for the funding of children's services and also in my capacity as a senator for Tasmania who happens to live in Launceston. It is an unfortunate situation. I know that family day care centres have to be careful of the people they employ as carers. Therefore, they have to investigate the background of those who are carers. In this unfortunate case, the young woman is registered as a carer by the children's services section of the State Department of Health and her background has been investigated both by the State Department and the Federal Department of Community Services. As a senator for the area, I have made my own inquiries, and there is absolutely no evidence for the scurrilous rumours which were apparently given to the family day care centre by people for reasons known or unknown. What is more, there is every bit of evidence that she is a person of good character and a person certainly suitable to be employed in this way.

I have approached the Family Day Care Committee to ask it to reconsider this situation. At the moment, it has decided not to do so, I understand, although I hope the members are considering the question again. It seems to me, in this case, as I think Senator Aulich suspects, that there is a matter of personalities and a determination by certain firm personalities on the Committee that they have made a decision and they will not make a change to that decision even if they are shown to be wrong.

I suppose one could make out a case for Federal funding to be removed because of this incident. That would penalise a large number of families and children in the Launceston area who are being provided with good quality care by this family day care scheme.

I have approached the members of this Committee to see whether they will change their mind and, indeed, I believe they should apologise to the young woman concerned. If they will not do so, I think the best and most democratic method of changing this situation would be to change the committee and the officers of that family day care scheme. I dare say some steps will be taken to do that. I would prefer to see that done than for me to use any ministerial power I have to interfere in this area.