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Women’s Health

MS TUCKER: My question is for the Chief Minister in her capacity as Treasurer and Minister for Health. Can the Minister please inform the Assembly what consultation she has undertaken regarding the health needs of women in the budget process and what priorities these consultations have produced?

MRS CARNELL: As Ms Tucker would be aware, we had a full range of budget consultations. We asked many people to come forward. As she would also be aware, I have also attended many meetings of groups, particularly women in the health arena, over the last five months and talked to them about their budget needs. We also asked for submissions on the budget from all interested groups. All those submissions have been taken on board in our process.

MS TUCKER: I ask a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. At the moment, the closing of Tamar, the defunding of the Women's Counselling Service at the Women's Health Centre and the cutting of funding to Inanna refuge are causing grave concern. Have these cuts been made because the Government believes services, particularly counselling services, for women in the ACT are adequate, and what evidence has been gathered to inform this conclusion? I note that the Commonwealth has already provided money for two new counselling positions in the Women's Health Service because of shortages in this area.

MRS CARNELL: The decision to change the funding formula was one that we made in looking at fairness and equity in this area. I assume that you are talking about the reduction in funding to Inanna women's refuge. In that area the money that was made available to Richmond Fellowship was actually increased. We looked at equivalent funding across those sorts of areas and attempted to make sure that organisations that were providing similar services were given similar grants. To do that we had to bring Inanna down slightly and Richmond Fellowship up slightly.

In the areas of support services generally, our view was that all support services, rather than actual organisations supplying services, should be given similar amounts of money. That meant that some organisations got a bit more and some a bit less. Organisations supplying services, say Diabetes Australia, ended up getting somewhat less, whereas organisations that had never had funding before, say the Epilepsy Association, ended up being funded for the first time, in an attempt to overcome a problem that has occurred since self-government or even before self-government. Organisations that were funded at a time when money was somewhat more available in the ACT were on quite high levels of funding and organisations that had come into the funding process over the last couple of years, when things were quite tight, ended up not being able to be funded at all or being funded at low levels.

There is an attempt to bring funding under some rules that are the same for everybody. In some circumstances it is unfortunate that Inanna had their funding reduced. Mind you, they did the year before last as well, under the previous Government. We are disappointed about that, but the quantum amount of money that we had to give out simply did not increase. If we were going to try to make it fairer, there were going to be winners and losers.

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