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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (31 March) . . Page.. 1444..


MR PRATT (continuing):

would need to have sufficient staff, or at least one or two multiskilled staff, capable of compassionately dealing with kids who might turn up there.

The great advantage of having a night shelter in Civic-and, hopefully, in every town centre one day-is that it would become a magnet, a place to which displaced youth could go. What better way for government workers and NGO workers to engage with kids at risk? At least if the shelter is there the kids will come to it. Perhaps that is an opportunity for the experts in our society to engage with these kids and provide early intervention to help them with their problems.

I take note of Mr Wood's intentions, and he seems to understand and agree with the need for a night shelter. I am sure that it is in his heart and he wants to get on with a project such as this. However, he is constrained by a government that creaks along and lacks the urgency and imagination to get to grips with a need that was identified in 2000. We are talking about a need that has been around for quite a long time. Mr Stefaniak says that when they were in government they were talking to youth workers and they had probably commenced a review of the need. The issue has been identified for quite a long time as an important need, if not an urgent need. So, come on, cabinet. Help Mr Wood out. Give him the wherewithal to mobilise such a project.

I echo the comments of Mrs Burke that the government should hasten to build into the budget the money needed to get this project going and also her comments that we do not need to wait for more reviews or more reports. What is so difficult technically about identifying the scope, role and shape of a night shelter? Why can't the minister and his departments connect with the NGOs, which we were talking about earlier, to define the need? I do not know why we have so many reviews that go on for so damn long before decisions can be made. Of course, in some cases you need reviews that take time to technically analyse difficult projects, but a night shelter is surely not all that complicated.

A significant number of youth are at risk in ACT society. We know that from the data that we are able to collect through questions on notice, and we know from the information that we receive from the Department of Education and Youth Services that there are a significant number of kids in Canberra who are at risk. We know there are quite a number of them. It is not a major percentage in terms of the total youth in Canberra, but it is a significant number. We know that there are kids out there who are in trouble.

Talking to the police, we know that there are a lot of kids at a loose end. The police would like nothing better than to work alongside NGOs and government youth workers and, in contact with a night shelter, help resolve some of the problems they have to deal with. The police do not want to be booking kids and taking them off to the remand centre or the police station. They have more important things to do.

I commend Ms Dundas's motion and ask that the government get on with it and see if they can put something into the budget as soon as possible. Ted, stop that process and allow Mr Wood to get this project on the table.

MS DUNDAS (4.25): I thank members for contributing to the debate. I was a little taken aback by the minister's comments. I was, somewhat hopefully, expecting that the government would come down and go, "Yes, Ms Dundas. Your motion is unnecessary


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