In July 2016, the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria’s (ECCV) consulted with culturally diverse communities, parents, teachers and legal experts on lowering the age of control orders for children aged 14 in the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2015. The Law Council of Australia (LCA) kindly accepted ECCV’s invitation to attend this community roundtable to answer questions and explain the Bill to people who had not heard of it and found it difficult to understand. Eighteen roundtable participants representing faith groups, multicultural peak organisations, ethno-specific service providers, representative lawyers of national peak legal associations, staff from a state government agency, a university lecturer, parents, grandparents and community members.
The process of making new laws (legislation) can be very difficult to understand for culturally diverse communities in Victoria. Legislation with the power to significantly change our lives for the better or worse deserves nothing less than rigorous consultation and debate between the government making the laws and the communities who are affected. A respectful discussion provided helpful insights into limiting the potential damage to Victoria’s social cohesion from some aspects of this Bill, which experts believe could be passed this year. The Bill’s unintended consequences include poor safeguards for authorising and managing control orders of children aged 14 while permitting an unprecedented intrusion and surveillance of Victorian families, children, friends, schools and employers.