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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 09 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 August 2010) . . Page.. 3817 ..

Speaking for myself, I affirm the UNESCO International Charter of Physical Education and Sport, a belief that education systems must assign the requisite place and importance to physical education and sport in order to establish a balance and strengthen links between physical activities and other components of education. As Australia is a member state of UNESCO, and with our legendary status as a sporting nation, coupled with the ACT’s proud reputation of being one of the most sporting participative communities in Australia, we should ensure total commitment for the aims of the UNESCO charter.

In this regard, we hope that the ACT government seriously examines its support for and commitment to its own physical education and sport unit and enhances its partnership and support of not just the elite sporting teams of our territory but also the many junior grassroots sporting organisations that are desperately trying to cope with continued increasing demand for playing facilities, despite the ever-shrinking number of playing fields that are available for our youth here in Canberra.

I commend Mr Seselja for introducing this timely matter of public importance, the importance of junior sports in the ACT.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (5.07): I am pleased to speak about this important matter today and to thank Mr Seselja for bringing the matter forward. As we have heard, engagement in sport and recreation contributes to the wellbeing, health and skill development of young people, as well as giving the opportunity to develop team values and social skills. Obviously, it has a significant capacity to contribute to their overall development. As I said, participating in team sport gives young people the chance to work in a cooperative fashion, whilst working towards a common goal.

For most, sport is an enjoyable activity. Participation in sport also develops healthy habits in young people, which obviously leads to health benefits, as Mr Seselja was saying earlier. The health benefits associated with junior sport and physical activity include building strong hearts and bones, strengthening muscles and developing good posture, building the basic movement skills, improving concentration, enhancing social skills and maintaining a healthy weight.

New figures from Western Australia, expected to be echoed across Australia, show that obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia. The contribution of excessive weight to ill health has more than doubled in six years. By 2006, it accounted for 8.7 per cent of all disease. Therefore, we cannot emphasise enough that sport has the potential to contribute positively to the health of young people in the area of physical fitness and weight control and also in the promotion of healthy eating habits.

Maintaining a healthy weight from a young age, driven by love of organised sport, provides a springboard for lifelong engagement, as there is strong evidence to suggest that physical activity patterns are established during childhood and tend to continue into adulthood. The early years are also important for the development of fundamental motor skills and cognitive growth.

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