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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 458 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

The committee also asked that education and day programs be developed, with greater coverage. It is important to acknowledge the position of schools in this whole issue. We actually received far more information from the Australian Education Union, in terms of the real issues around young people at risk, than we actually received from the department. The department had employed a consultant who came up with a very strong, well-researched report. I would have liked a much stronger response to this from the Government because our teachers are struggling as much as the students and their families because of the lack of support. Everyone who has a child in a public school is being affected by it.

The committee wanted to see a greater focus on the development of a coordinated strategy to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the community. The Government had reservations about elements of this recommendation. I am not quite sure what they were - they did not actually identify them - but they did say they were concerned about whether or not the representations to the committee were representative of the community and that it was not clear whom we had spoken to. That was actually at the request of some people who felt very uncomfortable in being identified - not because of problems in the community, but because of problems with their employment, or possible repercussions, after speaking to this committee. It does not look good for a government when people are concerned about speaking out and identifying themselves.

Overall, I say again that I look forward to seeing the reviews that the Government has said it will undertake. I am very disappointed that there was not a much more active response in terms of addressing the gaps in services and the problems that our young people, carers, teachers, foster parents and families are facing in the ACT. Those people who are struggling need our support. We have failed them and we are continuing to fail them.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (11.08): Mr Speaker, many serious issues were raised by the Social Policy Committee in its report on services for children at risk in the ACT. It is a report that needs to be taken particularly seriously by government. In saying that, I recognise that a number of the issues now fall within my portfolio area, although the vast majority of them are in Mr Stefaniak's area.

It is a report that I will be taking seriously; but, at the same time, I must remind you that it is very easy to make recommendations which involve large costs - and some of these recommendations do involve large costs. I identify that as an issue. Ms Tucker and I have discussed it on quite a number of occasions. Assembly committees try their best to avoid making recommendations that involve large costs. I was on the committee in the Second Assembly that made some recommendations on mental health when we were aware that there were costs involved. We were told by the Social Policy Committee of the last Assembly - and I think it is fair to say that Ms Tucker is reinforcing this - that it may be time to move some of our priorities and ensure that expenditure occurs in some of the areas where it is needed. I give credit to the Social Policy Committee for identifying the specific areas in which expenditure should occur.

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