Children Legislation Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill 2017 | Second Reading

Ms SULEYMAN (St Albans) (18:14:01) — I am pleased to rise and speak on the Children Legislation Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill 2017, and I echo the sentiments made by others on this side of the house so far in this debate. The objective of this bill is to amend the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 and the Children’s Youth and Families Act 2005 and also to make other amendments in order to promote better child wellbeing and safety outcomes, which is critical for the Andrews Labor government. What this means is enabling a number of government agencies and service providers to share information and improve early risk identification and of course intervention, which is a priority, promoting children’s participation in these services and promoting cross-sector collaboration.

Debate ends.

Debate resumed.

Ms SULEYMAN (St Albans) (18:23:14) — As I was saying earlier on, this bill will enable and promote collaboration across the sectors in the planning and delivering of services for children and their families. As previous speakers have said today, there have been a number of reviews in the last eight years which have recommended reform in Victoria’s information-sharing arrangements. That is why the Andrews Labor government has consistently been fighting and advocating for improvement in the safety and wellbeing of all Victorians.

This bill is just one of many, many reforms and initiatives that support our government’s Roadmap for Reform: Strong Families, Safe Children to stop the increase of family violence in our communities. The bill will enable early intervention, prevention, family support and connection to universal services. It will promote shared responsibility across professional stakeholders and organisations, and it will also promote less reliance on services, including child protection services.

A key priority of the Andrews Labor government is that children are kept safe, and that is what this bill is about — keeping children safe from harm and ensuring that they have every opportunity to develop in a healthy and safe manner. From education to health we want our next generation and today’s generation to reach their full potential and to build happy, healthy and productive lives.

The way forward is that critical information will be shared as part of Child Link, an IT platform designed to enable this communication through various different agencies. The bill will require the establishment of the Child Link register in relation to each child who is born in Victoria who accesses, enrols in, registers with or otherwise engages with a relevant service; registers to homeschool; or is subject to child protection orders. Child Link will share limited but important information regarding a child’s enrolment and participation in services. It will also help to inform our government’s policy development and service design to continue improving these services for its users.

Child Link will be focused on all children from 0 to 18 years of age who are born in Victoria or who come into some form of contact with a Victorian agency and are linked into this connection. Child Link will also assist authorised children’s service professionals to join the dots and form a picture of the circumstances of a child in their care based on the child’s enrolment and participation in key universal and enhanced childhood services. This is absolutely incorporated in Child Link.

As previous speakers said, this is very clear and straightforward. This is about protecting and making sure that children are safe. It is very clear that the Andrews Labor government takes this bill very seriously and in particular takes the privacy of this information very seriously. Only people designated as Child Link users may access the register or use the disclosed confidential information recorded in the register. Every designated Child Link user must have written authorisation and the appropriate safety checks ticked off by a relevant authority, such as the secretary, the chief executive officer of the council or a school principal. Only senior and appropriately skilled and trained people — professionals — with particular responsibilities will be authorised by their service to be Child Link users. This bill is all about the wellbeing and safety of children in our community.

Most importantly the bill also outlines offences and penalties. The penalties are pretty strict for those people who misuse the information. The bill makes it very clear that the set of guidelines needs to be followed, or appropriate action will be taken against those individuals who do not take them seriously.

The Child Link program needs to be incorporated into our existing service framework. We know that no child should be left behind. Children deserve every possible investment — from policy to infrastructure to everyday areas of health, education and family services — so there must be the appropriate support mechanism to make sure that every child has the right to live a very happy and healthy life.

Just a note: in my electorate of St Albans we are at the moment building the new $200 million Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital. It is a children’s hospital that will cater for the most vulnerable in our community, so I am extremely excited about the fact that this multilevel facility, a first for the west as a children’s hospital, will also have 20 maternity delivery rooms, 173 beds, 39 special nursery cots, four theatres and additional clinics. This is all about the health and wellbeing of the children in our community.

Part of improving support services is making sure that the wellbeing and safety of Victorian children is put first. That is why we have introduced this bill along with the many, many other improvements that we have made to make sure that every child in Victoria is protected.

I want to thank the minister. Again, this is legislation in response to many, many reports and reviews. Now this government, the Andrews Labor government, has taken the first step to making sure that every Victorian child in our community is protected, is safe, is happy and is healthy. It is about the wellbeing of every Victorian, no matter what their age. I commend the bill to the house.