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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (28 May) . . Page.. 706 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Mr Speaker, it is my intention, given the differing views about which position to take on removing this defence - the so-called "drunk's defence" - that the matter be referred to the Justice and Community Safety Committee for consideration. I hope that that committee will have useful contributions to make to establishing a suitable position for the ACT to take on this particular matter. I commend the Bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stanhope) adjourned.

Report on Inquiry into Services for Children at Risk -
Government Response and Ministerial Statement

Debate resumed from 28 April 1998, on motion by Mr Stefaniak:

That the Assembly takes note of the papers.

MR RUGENDYKE (11.49): Mr Speaker, I applaud the previous Standing Committee on Social Policy for their thorough, sensitive and compassionate benchmark report on children at risk. It is pleasing that the Government has given basic support and commitment to most of the recommendations of the report, albeit subject to budget considerations. It is also pleasing that there appears to be bipartisan support for what is recognised as a serious problem in our society.

Throughout my policing career and as a foster carer, I have become aware of many of the concerns and issues raised by the report. I have experienced many incidents involving the young, the disadvantaged and the mentally ill which are completely in agreement with the findings of this report. My experience, which is backed up by the report, is that there is a major lack of services for children with mental illness. This ranges from lack of services to adequately assist young people who smoke excessive marijuana, to one particular youth who, I have no doubt, will kill either a youth worker or a police officer because of our inability to cope with his condition. Incidentally, I understand that this boy has been assessed as having a mental condition, although I do not know the exact details of that condition. The point is this, Mr Speaker: The process that the system has had to go through to assist this boy is unwieldy, difficult to navigate and largely unworkable. It is problems such as this that the report attempts to address.

I know a 17-year-old boy who is unable to function, as if his brain has been turned to mush, simply because he has smoked too much dope. It strikes me as odd that we are living in a society where we are trying to make examples out of people who like to smoke legal tobacco products by banning them from public places; yet we are forever looking for ways to decriminalise the use of cannabis. I say, "Recriminalise; do not decriminalise". I have also seen the improvement in an 18-year-old male who, with guidance, has stopped smoking dope. He no longer breaks into cars or houses to support his habit. He now has a job and has reintegrated into a family who are proud of his achievements and the turnaround in his life.

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