Page 35 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 8 February 2022

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Canberra has just welcomed the opening of its newest school, in Throsby, the third zero-emissions public school in the territory. I know Minister Berry will have more to say about this later this morning. Work continues on a range of school projects across the city. Construction is underway on a new high school in Kenny, in the Gungahlin district, which is due for completion in 2023. The development of new schools in growth areas in Gungahlin and west Belconnen is also on track, with a head contractor tender for a high school in Taylor and a design consultant contract for a new primary school in Strathnairn both due to be awarded early this year. The Evelyn Scott School in Denman Prospect, in the Molonglo Valley, is already open to preschool and primary school pupils, ahead of welcoming high school students in 2023.

Throughout all that I have spoken about this morning, there is a key theme of wellbeing, quality of life and making Canberra an even better place. That is a strong and coherent part of everything that I have talked about. Wellbeing is a key focus for the territory government and continues to be a significant consideration in developing policy and the decision-making process around budget priorities each year. Pleasingly, the ACT has some of the highest wellbeing outcomes in the world, compared to other OECD nations and regions. In Australia we have the highest levels of wellbeing across 10 of the 11 areas of the OECD Better Life Index, compared to our interstate counterparts.

Of course, not everyone in the ACT shares the same quality of life. Some groups have been more affected by the pandemic than others, for example. Understandably, this has impacted mental health, with more people in the territory, and indeed more people across Australia and around the world, accessing mental health services. However, both local and national surveys suggest that our overall wellbeing is improving since exiting lockdown last year.

Canberra continues to be a livable city, with nine in 10 Canberrans saying they would recommend our region as a great place to live. And why not? Canberrans enjoy the highest life expectancy in Australia, the greatest access to green space, and the highest perceptions of safety compared to the national average.

The ACT also continues to be the country’s most digitally inclusive state or territory. We embrace new technologies and we support each other. Volunteerism is higher in the territory than elsewhere.

At the conclusion of these remarks this morning, and to start off what will be a challenging year again for our community, I want to acknowledge that it has been an incredibly difficult few years for everyone, not just here in Canberra but across Australia and around the world. We need to acknowledge that not every challenge that COVID-19 throws at us can be easily or quickly resolved. We need to acknowledge that some sections of the community and the economy have been more affected than others. These facts have invariably influenced the ACT government’s immediate priorities as we have responded to the pandemic. This was evidenced in the delayed budget in October last year, where the largest new expenditure initiatives were the hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to business support programs.

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