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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 September 2010) . . Page.. 4272 ..

us, the commissioner welcomes and supports the intention of the principal to do whatever he can to keep students in school. The commissioner is concerned, like us, that what the principal is proposing may be potentially unlawful. The commissioner, however, has met with the principal recently and is working with him on trying to address—

Opposition members interjecting—

MS HUNTER: I will just say that again: the commissioner, however, has met with the principal recently and is working with him on trying to address the truancy issue by other methods. This seems to me to be a good way forward. There is no simple solution to the issue of truancy, nor a one-size-fits-all approach to address absenteeism. Partnerships, or at least regular communication between the government, schools, parents and the local communities, as Mr Doszpot suggests in his motion, are vital in seeking not only to address truancy but also absenteeism and the failure of students to engage in their education.

These partnerships are vital because a range of factors will influence students in relation to their decisions around attendance at school. Family factors such as low socioeconomic status, negative attitudes to school, custody battles, marital problems and care of siblings or parents may influence a student’s choices. In addition, there are school factors such as conflicting teaching styles, bullying, harassment and poor language skills.

Truancy and absenteeism have both long-term and short-term impacts on students, their families and the community. For students, it may mean early dropout, few marketable skills, little prospect of a job, depression, lack of motivation, anxiety, ongoing behavioural problems, low self-esteem, the potential for crime, drug abuse and violence, and social isolation or homelessness. For families, it may mean a continuation of the cycle of poverty and unemployment, dealing with a difficult or distressed teenager, family discord, additional stress, encounters with the juvenile justice system, and physical or mental illness.

For the community, it may mean contact with the police because of drug abuse or violence. There may be jail time or the use of a range of already stretched services to do with unemployment, illness or homelessness. Students who are frequently absent and eventually drop out of school feel disconnected and may be reluctant to accept help, wandering aimlessly until they reach a crisis that makes their problems public.

The ACT Greens are proposing an amendment to Mr Doszpot’s motion which has been circulated in my name. The amendment removes paragraphs (2) and (3) of the motion and inserts an additional paragraph (1)(d), which recognises that the Assembly supports the efforts of the principal and that there are a range of other lawful mechanisms to address the problem.

The amendment also inserts a paragraph (2) that calls on the minister to work with the Department of Education and Training, the principal of Lanyon and the ACT Human Rights Commission to develop appropriate strategies to address the issue. In our view, this is the most productive way forward that allows the effective and robust

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