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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 24 August 1995) . . Page.. 1400 ..


It was of very great interest in that it came so hot after the election. It was pretty well the first thing that happened in the Assembly after the new Government had been formed. People were still in election mode to a certain extent, in that they had lobbied both parties, everybody, before the election; so they still had their ideas fresh, had their focus still on their major concerns, and had not quite come to terms with all the new arrangements that were in hand. Of course, anxieties were expressed about the formation of the new departments and the interrelationship with those, and the nature of the effect of that on community activity. I think that is a fair assessment of the dangers that the changes pose and, I hope, a fair warning to government that community groups were familiar with how things went and will need a fair level of education and encouragement to be involved with the new formations, not necessarily with the fear or trepidation which was expressed by so many groups. We, of course, will be keeping a close eye on that and offering further opportunity for discussion.

I was very grateful for the frankness and the willingness with which people were able to come forward and share their personal anxieties for the community groups that they deal with. I know that at the end of the day it is no one major group's fault that another group in the community is suffering hardship. It is never as simple as that, and it is never as simple as dividing the oppressors and the oppressed, as Chris Uhlmann has pointed out in the Canberra Times. I accept that that is a simplistic analysis of how the world is; but, for many people caught up in very difficult and trying circumstances, it appears that way. I think that what is interesting about this report is that it gives us an insight into how the world feels for some groups, into the sorts of things that they are grappling with, into the ways that they see issues, and perhaps gives us some guidance to at least walking into their hearts, walking into their timeframe, walking into their lives and their battles, and to try to say, “Okay, if you feel that, if you are experiencing that, if you are involved in these struggles, what role does government have, and what role do we as individual politicians have?”.

Some of the issues raised are very challenging. How on earth does a person with epilepsy make himself or herself acceptable? How on earth does one individual deal with the massive prejudices that do exist in our community? How does one deal with the underlying fears of some diseases that individuals hold within themselves and then project on the community? How do people who have suffered traumatic brain injury recover? What right do they have to support services? What responsibilities does a government have for a person who has suffered a tragic accident? At what point does that support stop? What responsibility must continue? Who holds that responsibility? These questions are probably unanswerable, but to have them posed so early in the life of this Assembly, I think, is of grave importance.

The continuing issue of language is an aggravation for many, but again the group that presented the stereotypes that they were faced with find it a handicap to the services that they seek. Perhaps there is a role for government in fixing that; perhaps there is not. By the mere airing of them, though, we are all collectively put on alert. The continuing and emerging problems that are facing the ageing community are of profound interest because this community is changing, as is the rest of Australia, and, in time, we who are


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