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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4612 ..

MS McRAE: It is good that you have a helper there, Mr Speaker. I would hate to see you survive without that sort of assistance. It is extremely helpful. The question was: Who was consulted? Mr Stefaniak has confirmed that prospective students were not consulted. The question asked how students who are going to enrol in Hawker and Narrabundah and who were not consulted about the proposed changes are going to realign their courses for two terms rather than three. It makes quite a difference to subject choice. They were not consulted. Further to my supplementary question, why did you not announce these changes, since you are the Minister?

MR STEFANIAK: I think perhaps the changes might have been prematurely announced, although there has been a lot of discussion on this. Quite sensibly, it does surprise me that there was some report on it. Also in terms of when the changes will start, it is very important that colleges have ample time to prepare for such things as differences in courses and any lead-up work that needs to occur. That is why nothing in terms of any new courses will start until 1998. That is crucially important, Ms McRae.

Disability Services House - Industrial Action

MR KAINE: My question is to the Chief Minister and Minister for Health and Community Care. Minister, a strike has been going on for some days now conducted by members of the Health Services Union in connection with a group house for people with disabilities. Can you advise the Assembly how this dispute came about and what is the basis of the dispute? Given that the impact of the strike is felt mainly by people who are disabled, can you tell us what the Government is doing to resolve the situation quickly?

MRS CARNELL: Thank you very much, Mr Kaine. Mr Speaker, I wish this whole sad and sorry affair had never happened, and I hope everybody in this Assembly will feel the same. It has caused great distress to some of the most vulnerable members of our community - people with disabilities and their families and guardians. It has also caused a great deal of embarrassment, or I hope it has caused a great deal of embarrassment, to the trade union movement in Canberra, and for that I make no apologies whatsoever.

It is important that I outline for the Assembly exactly how this dispute has come about, particularly in light of the criticisms made by Ms Tucker and certain other individuals about the Government's supposed lack of commitment to providing an appropriate environment in our group houses. The Department of Health and Community Care has recently been made aware of allegations concerning the welfare of a particular resident at a particular group house in South Canberra. Program management has become concerned because, within a short period of time, a number of things have been reported. No. 1 is that unexplained bruising has been found on a particular resident; No. 2 is that a complaint was received by a disability program staff member from a particular resident, and a disability program staff member reported concerns about client management practices which may have involved some fairly rough handling.

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