Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I wish to raise a matter regarding the important issue of child protection in this state. I ask the Minister for Community Services to meet urgently with the Australian Childhood Foundation (ACF) to discuss its great work in safeguarding children. I have met with people from the foundation, who have briefed me on their proposed Safeguarding Children accreditation program. It is a voluntary accreditation program for community groups that work with children and young people. I would like particularly to recognise that this group is self-funded and does not rely on government funding. Philanthropic organisations that have supported this group include the Jack and Robert Smorgon Foundation, the Pratt Foundation, the R. E. Ross Trust, The Myer Foundation and the Colonial Foundation. These are all great organisations that have supported this group.
There can be no doubt that child protection and child safety are so important. Crimes against children rank as some of the worst in our society, and those who seek to harm children must be stopped from getting anywhere near them. This program I am talking about seeks to strengthen and reinforce child protection in comparison to what we have at the moment. The shortfall in current child safety regulations is dangerous and must be fixed. Abuse of children and young people by employees is preventable, and these sorts of programs go a long way towards doing that. The current working-with-children checks that were put in place by the opposition when it was in government certainly have lots of holes and need to be looked at as well.
I call on the minister to meet with this organisation to see some of the great work it does. The reason I consider this to be urgent is that in 11 long years this organisation was not responded to by the former government.
Under the Bracks and Brumby governments there was no funding and no response from ministers and their departments, including the current member for Essendon as the minister responsible for youth, Sherryl Garbutt as the minister responsible for community services and the member for Niddrie as Attorney-General. It is about time this organisation, like many others, was responded to.
I know the minister is very busy repairing the damage left by the Labor government, but I am sure she will be impressed with the great work of the ACF and the Australian Council for Children and Youth Organisations in safeguarding children. If she is able to meet with them, I am sure she will be really impressed. I call on the minister to make some time to visit and see some of the great work this organisation does.