16 October 2013
(Community Recognition Statement, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I support the Strata Schemes Management Amendment (Child Window Safety Devices) Bill, which will require owner corporations to fit all windows above the ground floor in strata schemes with child safety devices so that they can be locked open at a width that stops children getting through them. Children falling through windows is a serious concern.
During 2011-12, 39 children were hospitalised in New South Wales as a result of falls from windows. Most were children under the age of four, many of whom sustained serious injuries that resulted in the need for lifelong medical treatment and care.
There are approximately 70,000 strata title buildings in New South Wales and population growth requires us to significantly increase the proportion of people in high density living in the future. Gone are the days when families would move into detached dwellings in the outer suburbs. More and more families are choosing to live in apartments. In my electorate, 78 per cent of occupied dwellings are flats, units or apartments—a far higher proportion than elsewhere in the State or country. More families with children are staying in the inner city and the many parents I have talked to say that they love the lifestyle apartment living provides.
As someone who was raised in an apartment in the central business district I know firsthand that apartments are a great place to raise children. Apartments are often close to jobs, education and services. As a child growing up in the inner city I learnt to walk everywhere and to value public transport. Certain factors are needed to make apartment living sustainable for families, including access to public open space for recreation and making buildings safe for children.
I was alarmed to learn how many children fall from windows. Apartment residents need to be able to open their windows to get fresh air into their homes, particularly in the warmer months, but we need to make it safe for them to do so when they have children around. By requiring all strata buildings to fit locks or safety devices that can prevent a window from opening more than 12.5 centimetres, the bill will enable adults to open apartment windows without posing a risk to their children or visiting children. Adults will still need to lock the windows into place when they are open. I welcome commitments by the Minister to a community education and awareness campaign on child safety.
I am concerned, however, that the bill does not include company title buildings. I understand company title law is very complex, but many of these still exist within my electorate. Children in company title buildings are at the same risk as children in strata buildings. In fact, company title buildings are often older making them less likely to have newer windows that can be locked open. I request that the Government also address this serious concern. I have many high-rise public housing properties in my electorate and I hope that the window safety of those properties also is being dealt with appropriately and that it is regularly monitored. The bill will improve child safety in strata titled homes and reduce preventable injuries and deaths associated with children falling from windows and balconies. I support the bill.