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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 November 2007) . . Page.. 3556 ..


According to a 2005-06 national minimum data set, the three most common drugs abused by Indigenous Canberrans, or in relation to which Indigenous Canberrans sought assistance, were heroin, alcohol and cannabis.

The social and economic costs associated with drug and alcohol misuse are difficult to quantify, but the destruction of human potential is very real, the erosion of quality of life of people who suffer a drug addiction and the misery of their family and themselves are plain and patently there for all to see. We do not need to assign a dollar value to the cost of drug and alcohol abuse to know just how significant an issue it is, and the anguish and pain that it causes.

This government has committed very significant resources to combating Indigenous disadvantage in the area of health. We fund staffing positions within non-government community organisations, and in our period of government have increased funding for Winnunga Nimmityjah by some hundreds of per cent. Both Winnunga Nimmityjah and Gugan Gulwan provide outstanding service to Indigenous Canberrans. Those two organisations are a real credit to all of those who work within them. Indeed, it is appropriate in the context of this question to acknowledge that Dr Peter Sharp, the medical practitioner who has been associated with Winnunga Nimmityjah for the last 17 years in a variety of roles, was last week awarded a most significant award within the Canberra Australia Day awards, that of Canberra Local Hero for 2007—a most deserving award.

We fund two youth detoxification support worker positions, one at Winnunga Nimmityjah and the other at Gugan Gulwan. We also support two dual diagnosis outreach worker positions—one at Winnunga and the other at Gugan Gulwan—to support young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living with the challenges of mental health and substance abuse issues.

Most specifically and of most direct interest to members, I announced last week, as part of the second appropriation bill, funding of $10.8 million over this budget cycle to create a culturally appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific alcohol and drug rehabilitation service. Not only did the idea for this service arise from the affected community, but Indigenous Canberrans have been quite deeply involved in the planning that led to what I think was a most historic announcement about the creation of an Indigenous-specific alcohol and drug service. Indigenous people will continue to be central to the project. We have not yet finalised the model for the service. A site has not yet been selected. Those decisions will be made in close consultation with Indigenous people in the territory.

We will, however, choose a therapeutic model. It will be rigorous but it will also be culturally appropriate. I am confident that the improved capacity and support that we as a society will have to assist Indigenous people caught in the spiral of substance abuse will have a significant impact on addressing the underlying social issues that affect everybody but specifically Indigenous people with a drug dependence. (Time expired.)

MS MacDONALD: Mr Speaker, my supplementary question is: can the Chief Minister advise the Assembly what steps the government is taking in addressing issues of Indigenous education?


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