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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (31 March) . . Page.. 1435..

MR WOOD (continuing):

know that because I have said it, I believe, often enough. You would know that. As a subset of that, there is a proposal that I will talk about in a short space of time.

Yes, there is a problem; there is no doubt about that; I am not denying that. One of our budgets, our last budget, put $13.4 million over four years into the problem-long overdue, long overdue-and we have already allocated over $2 million of that to get things moving. Sorry, we are way ahead of other people. Sorry about that.

Mrs Burke: Two years down the track, that is not bad, at last.

MR WOOD: You hear this all the time. In contrast with what you people did, we are putting money in, not taking it out. The AIHW, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, reports, disturbingly, that there are increasing numbers of young people entering SAAP services-this is stated in their report in 2001-02-and that the ACT has the highest number of 12 to 13-year olds and 14 to 15-year olds in SAAP services in Australia. Yes, indeed there is an issue-no question about that-and we know about it. The report on the needs of homelessness, those that are suffering homelessness in the ACT, also demonstrates quite alarming figures. There is no doubt about this. There is an issue out there, but it is an issue that the government is dealing with.

Many young people leave home, for a variety of reasons. We have to examine all those reasons. They may be having relationship problems within the family. While such matters can be difficult to resolve they require a variety of responses. In the case of young people who are first time out of home, we want to do everything possible to keep them out of the welfare system and out of the refuge system; we want to connect them to community services that can work with them and their families to rebuild their relationships. We need to link up with these young people through their schools and through youth centres on a vast range of ideas. We want to get information and help to them about their options and support before they move into a real crisis. Some young people may be contending with substance dependence, mental health conditions or morbidity. The consequences of emotional, physical or sexual abuse require quite different interventions.

Our current response to homeless young people in the ACT includes funding of $3.2 million to refuges and $1.4 million to youth centres. Of course, there are many initiatives that work with families before crisis to build their relationships and their resilience. But yes, I agree: we still need to look closely at these responses to ensure they are the most appropriate, that they are well targeted and that they are effective. We have been looking closely; we put the money there; we are spending the money; but we are also looking closely to define the best strategy.

I know that youth SAAP providers are doing a lot of work at the moment to build their capacity to respond to the complex needs of homeless young people. We need to support on-the-ground workers, making sure they are trained and resourced to do the work. We also need to look carefully at identified service gaps.

A new facility may be necessary. A new facility is not always the most appropriate response. I would say that, in looking at the circumstances of those first time, out-of- home young people, a facility is not necessarily going to be the service response of choice, although it is obviously something that gets a high degree of consideration.

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