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Sport and Recreation - Child Safety

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 26 November 2020

Tags: Child Safety, Sport and Recreation

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, this is a related matter. It was confirmed in Estimates with the Minister for Human Services yesterday that a former manager at the Ashley Youth Detention Centre, who has had serious allegations raised against them - which I must point out do not relate to the sexual abuse of a child - has in fact been transferred to manage the Launceston Silverdome. Are you aware of this matter, and do you have any concerns? Are you able to tell the committee of the status of this former Ashley manager's Working with Vulnerable People registration?

Ms HOWLETT - I thank Ms O'Connor for her question. I was not aware of that until yesterday when I was watching Estimates. In relation to this matter, my advice from the secretary of the Department of Communities is that there are no allegations against the employee related to fraud or child abuse. I am further advised that you should put any questions you have on this matter on notice, so that the department can consult with the head of the State Service before responding.

Ms O'CONNOR - With respect, minister, and I take on board your statement about there being no allegations of fraud specifically against this person or the sexual abuse of children, I am aware of the substance of some of those allegations at least, and they raise a question over this person's suitability to supervise, in any way, young people. I think telling the committee whether you are concerned about this, and updating the committee on working with vulnerable people registration is a matter of public interest.

Ms HOWLETT - Thank you, Ms O'Connor. Just to correct the record beforehand, I would like to say I first heard of that allegation on Monday during the Premier's Estimates contribution. This week has gone incredibly quick. The Silverdome does not fall under my responsibility; it falls under Communities and I am not sure if Helen would like to provide information, or Kate.

Ms O'CONNOR - Which minister is responsible for the Silverdome? I thought it was funded through Sport and Recreation. It is a line item in Sport and Recreation.

Ms KENT - It might be a line item in the Budget, but the Silverdome is a capital asset the Department of Communities Tasmania manages as a corporate part of the department and it actually falls within the Minister for Human Services. Many corporate things, by nature, fall within that minister because of the larger portfolio. As the minister has said, there would be no reason for it to be related to the Minister for Sport and Recreation.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. A final follow-up question. First of all, I am quite surprised that a major sporting facility like Silverdome would be administered by the Minister for Human Services.

CHAIR - It doesn't make this process any easier, that is for sure.

Ms O'CONNOR - Given the extensive use of the Silverdome for recreational activities and sporting activities by a whole range of organisations, minister, I am asking: will you take a personal interest in this matter and follow it up because some of the allegations are very worrying and we are talking about this person being around young people. It is really serious and I am hoping you will have a capacity here to follow up.

Ms HOWLETT - Given it is not my portfolio department, but on a personal matter, I certainly will. I will follow it up.


Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mrs Langenberg. I have listened with great interest and a measure of reassurance to your answer to Ms O'Byrne's questions. It does raise the bigger issue of how we keep predators away from young people and, as you say, Working with Vulnerable People registration is only one part of it, although I understand the process - because I introduced the legislation - can identify patterns of behaviour as well as previous convictions.

How closely does Sport and Recreation work with volunteer sporting organisations? I understand what you said about the newsletter and there are legal requirements, but to make sure that when we talk about child-safe organisations, there are practical policies and processes in place that to the best extent possible make sure that they are child-safe?

Mrs LANGENBERG - As well as that, it is certainly something the minister has directed Communities, Sport and Recreation to look at - avenues for some auditing or some more active monitoring of the sporting clubs within the state, which she answered in response to the hearing on Monday. That is certainly something we will be looking at and providing advice on. Otherwise it is difficult in a sector that is volunteer and reliant on volunteers, who are increasingly hard to get. There certainly are active attempts to make sure it is very much front of mind.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you very much. Can I ask, will Sport and Recreation be making a submission to the commission of inquiry? I understand it is likely that a number of government agencies will do that. Do you know if it has been considered yet by Sport and Recreation?

Ms HOWLETT - As far as being in the terms of reference?

Ms O'CONNOR - On the terms of reference, potentially, but more substantively, once the inquiry is established and hearing or taking evidence.

Ms HOWLETT - It would be our intention that this would extend to responses by Tasmanian Government agencies to any allegations of child sexual abuse, regardless of where they may have occurred. It is understood this will form part of the terms of reference to be developed for the inquiry. We will make a submission.

Ms O'CONNOR - For clarification here, you will feed into the terms of reference for the commission of inquiry, but also intend to submit to the commission of inquiry as well?

Ms HOWLETT - That is right.