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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 14 August 2018) . . Page.. 2877 ..

I am glad that the opposition have drawn attention to school psychologists. They might recall that the Australian Education Union asked for 15 additional school psychologists during the last election. The ACT government committed to and is delivering 20. The Canberra Liberals promised none.

The government will continue to ensure that equal access to a high-quality education is provided to every student in the ACT and that every student has the chance to have an equitable learning outcome regardless of their background. We will provide them with the tools, like free Chromebooks, to ensure that they get the best possible equal start. I commend the education budget to the Assembly.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (4.20): I am pleased to rise to speak on this important aspect of the 2018-19 budget. The Greens believe that high quality, free education is a keystone of our democracy and a basic human right. I have made that observation here before, and it is one to reflect on as we look at the budget. We want to ensure that every student, no matter where they are educated, has access to an education that meets their needs and aspirations and gives them the skills and the capacity to meaningfully participate in society.

It is the responsibility of government to ensure the provision of high quality, well-resourced and safe learning environments that are open to all students, and this budget makes some important investments to progress this aim. As Minister for Mental Health, I am particularly pleased with the investment this government is making in employing more school psychologists to better support student wellbeing and mental health. As we saw in the most recent Mission Australia youth survey, mental health is a critical issue for young people. The current trend of increasing demand for mental health services will likely continue as we work to break down the stigma on this issue so that more young people feel comfortable to come forward and ask for help.

The stresses that our young people face today are completely different from when many of us were growing up. The introduction of social media and the 24-hour news cycle are just part of the social landscape that we did not have to deal with. That is why the government has made mental health a priority and why we have committed to expanding our services in this area.

In addition to the many mental health initiatives I spoke about earlier today, the introduction of an additional 15 full-time school psychologists will be an important part of our mental health service system. It is also a key item under the parliamentary agreement. As the minister just touched on, the Labor Party made a commitment at the election to providing additional school psychologists, as did the Greens, to improve this capability. We are following through on that, and I am pleased that the minister has been so effective in putting this into the budget each year and ensuring that we get this additional investment. The commitment in this year’s budget follows through on the previous budget, which committed to an additional five school psychologists.

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