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ABUSED CHILDREN SUPPORT SERVICES - NSW Legislative Council Hansard
ABUSED CHILDREN SUPPORT SERVICES The Hon. DOROTHY ISAKSEN:Will the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services,and Minister for Disability Services inform the House of what steps hehas taken to provide counselling and support services for people whowere abused as children in care? The Hon. R. D. DYER:Revelations at the Wood royal commission have brought to the attentionof the whole community the issue of the abuse of children in care. Inresponse, the Government is taking a coordinated and pro-activeapproach, both to support individuals and to address the systemicissues that in the past have allowed abuse of children to happen. Childabuse is an issue that affects the whole nation; it is not confined tothis city or this State. Similarly, the solutions to the profoundproblems do not lie with New South Wales or governments alone. Findingcomprehensive, lasting solutions is the responsibility of the wholecommunity. The Government is promoting a national approach that willensure implementation of the national strategy to deal with child abuseand neglect. If there is anything that ought to bring the communitytogether it is the need to see that our children are safe andprotected. The Premier announced recently a comprehensive $13 millionthree-year package of measures to help overcome the human problemscaused by child abuse. The After Care Helpline is an important part ofthe package. The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: Did you know he was going to do it, Ron? The Hon. R. D. DYER:The Hon. Virginia Chadwick can be assured that I am well in touch withdevelopments in my portfolio. The After Care Helpline is a specialisedsupport service for adults and young persons who have experienced abusewhile in government and non-government out-of-home care. The serviceaims not just to address the specific instances of abuse but also toprovide a means of tackling the consequences of abuse. RelationshipsAustralia will provide the helpline service under contract to theDepartment of Community Services. A Relationships Australia documentstated, "Human relationships in the family, the workplace and in everyday interactions give our society a sense of purpose and value." It is clear that people who have been abusedas children can suffer a range of problems that they do not alwaysrecognise as stemming from the trauma of abuse. Problems such asdepression, lack of confidence, feelings of inadequacy, difficulties inmaintaining relationships, violence, abuse of alcohol and drugs, andgambling can all be related to childhood abuse and need to be addressedwithin the context of that experience. It is important for a person toaddress the underlying problems so that he or she may move on andsucceed in life. To people whose care was once the responsibility ofthe State the service will provide assistance and much needed supportso they may gain a greater sense of purpose and value. The After CareHelpline will provide a telephone counselling, information, support andreferral service for any callers who indicate they have been abused incare. No age limit applies to callers. Relationships Australia will be funded toprovide these services free of charge to callers. In addition, a rangeof supplementary services, also funded by the department, will beavailable where appropriate. A toll-free telephone number will beavailable across the State. I am pleased to acknowledge the work ofRelationships Australia in responding so magnificently and so quicklyto the enormous challenge this project has created. RelationshipsAustralia is an appropriate organisation to operate the After CareHelpline. The organisation, previously known as the Marriage GuidanceCouncil, commenced in 1948. In 1951 it assisted 67 people and nowprovides a range of services to more than 24,000 people each year. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Is this an advertisement? The Hon. R. D. DYER:No. I am grateful that such a respected and independent organisation isprepared to be funded by the Government to provide such an excellenthealth service to people who need help. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: I would be happy to be funded by the Government too, for $13 million. The Hon. R. D. DYER:The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti might be willing to be funded by theGovernment but whether I would have confidence in his independence tocarry out this service is another matter entirely. Relationships Page 844Australia has never provided out-of-home careservices, so it will enjoy the complete confidence of callers. TheAfter Care Helpline counsellors are highly professional workers withpost-graduate training or qualifications and are experts in theirfield. I have no doubt that this organisation will provide expertassistance to callers at a level relevant to their needs. Callers tothe help line are not restricted only to the services of RelationshipsAustralia. The policy of freedom of choice is supported byRelationships Australia and the Department of Community Services. Relationships Australia and the departmentwill put people seeking alternative services in touch with otherappropriate organisations. A meeting with a number of relevantorganisations has been held to ensure a streamlined approach to servicedelivery. People's ignorance and lack of understanding of the realneeds of children in care, combined with a belief that vulnerablechildren were often best cared for away from their families, arelessons to be learned from the past. Today we know that when childrenexperience violence and abuse they may become abusers and violentthemselves. Unfortunately it is true that that experience isself-perpetuating. The After Care Helpline will begin addressing issuesinvolving adults that unfortunately began when they were children.
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