I propose to take Questions Nos. 1155 and 1156 together.
I established the Collaborative Forum last year as a progressive response to the theme of “nothing about us without us” which emerged from my initial consultations with former residents of these institutions. This innovative approach facilitates and empower former residents to actively contribute to Government deliberations and action on matters of concern to them and their families.
Submitting its first report within 6 months was a significant achievement for the Forum and reflects the intensive investment and commitment of participants to this new approach to dialogue. I want to acknowledge the strength and courage of each and every member of the Forum in contributing to this important work.
In its report the Forum identifies priority issues for former residents and makes recommendations in the areas of health and well-being supports, identity and language, and memorialisation. In submitting this comprehensive report, the Forum has substantially delivered on its initial Charter and mandate.
When the Forum presented its draft report to me, I committed to seeking Government approval for its publication subject to the legal advices of the Attorney General. Significant legal issues were subsequently raised in the legal advices provided to me. These issues present a number of difficulties and I have written to Forum members to advise them of these matters directly. I intend to further update the Forum on how I propose to proceed when I have the opportunity to meet with members early next month.
While solutions are being sought to the above issues I am also taking steps to advance consideration of the report’s detailed recommendations. My department is consulting with relevant departments and agencies to develop some initial measures in response to the report’s recommendations.
The Chair had signalled his intention to step down once the first report was concluded. At that stage, and in the context of the submission of the first report, I signalled to the Forum that it would be opportune to give wider consideration to the future mandate and composition of the Forum. The Forum itself also suggested a revisiting of these matters.
I am currently examining how best to reflect upon the learning from process to date and I will ensure that the Forum is directly involved in this process. The approach to identify and appoint a new Chairperson will be considered as part of this process.
I believe that consistent engagement with former residents and other stakeholders on the matters of concern to them is essential while the Commission of Investigation continues with the important work it was established to do.