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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 9 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2623 ..

Report on Inquiry into Prevention of Violence in Schools -
Government Response

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Training) (4.03): Mr Speaker, for the information of members, I present the Government's response to Report No. 2 of the Standing Committee on Social Policy entitled Prevention of Violence in Schools, which was presented to the Assembly on 23 May. I move:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

The Government welcomes the standing committee's attention to this crucial issue. However, we believe that the report would have presented a more compelling argument and delineated a more productive policy framework if it had focused more directly on the cause and effect of violence in schools. It has paid a lot of attention to solutions and strategies to ameliorate disadvantage, but it is rather short on analysis and on strategies that focus on reducing violent behaviour.

What is required is a comprehensive program based on clearly articulated policy which deals with the problem on all fronts in the school community. This, I believe, is what we have in place in our school system. As our response clearly demonstrates, the Government has already initiated many strategies and has many programs in place that address disadvantage, which we do not for a moment deny is a very important concern. We are implementing many programs which also address directly the problem of violence in schools. We have introduced a schools equity fund for 1997, with at least $110,000 to assist schools with students whose parents do not have the capacity to meet all the costs of the additional and extracurricular activities that enrich children's experience at school. We are actively promoting a climate of non-violence in schools by providing a balance of competitive and non-competitive and physical education activities, with an increased emphasis on cooperative learning and social skills development.

However, while the Government's response gives non-competitive activities and physical education a significant role, a clear role for competitive sport in promoting a non-violent school environment also remains valid. It is interesting to note that during the recent and, thankfully, now concluded industrial bans, I received a number of letters and spoke to a number of people who indicated that, because one aspect of the school curricula, the interschool sport, was not occurring, it was leading to a lot of tension and some potentially aggressive and violent situations as a result. So, whilst it is terribly important to have non-competitive activities, there is also a very strong role for a number of other people for competitive activities as well.

We have in place as a matter of course many programs to encourage students to be non-violent and to assist them develop personal and group strategies to deal with tension and conflict in non-violent ways. We have developed a playground package, SCOPE - safe cooperative play environments - which is designed to enable primary schools to provide safer environments for all students. It includes strategies to promote cooperative play and to deal with violence related to bullying, gender, race and homophobia.

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