Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (28 May) . . Page.. 707 ..
MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):
I have been told by a psychiatric registrar that if a 17-year-old girl injects herself with heroin she cannot be treated as a mental illness patient because "she has chosen that style of life". Quite frankly, Mr Speaker, I do not believe that a 17-year-old should be allowed that choice. We should be channelling our youngsters away from developing a habit, not condoning a so-called choice. We should be doing our utmost to stop young people from plummeting into a lifestyle that, 10 years down the track, is almost impossible to escape from. Incidentally, I might add that the girl I referred to is now in her second year of law school; so, these remedies are available.
These experiences reinforce to me that we must do more in the area of juvenile mental illness. I have total agreement with the notion that children in substitute care should have access to counselling as a matter of course upon request. The children that we, as carers, see are often from homes with major problems ranging from drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse to neglect and emotional abuse. It is imperative that children who come into care or who come to notice by whatever means are given every assistance to develop as children should. As a foster carer, I was proud that the Foster Care Association was invited to provide input into the report and that the experiences of carers were crucial to the integrity of the report.
This report by the Social Policy Committee highlights areas in service provision which are below standard, which do need remedies to prevent people from falling through the cracks and which must be addressed. The Government has indicated that budget constraints will prevent the implementation of all of the recommendations in the report. I feel that the issues raised need to be addressed and that the budget should not be used as a reason for none of the proposals being implemented. I closely identify with a large majority of the issues; and I, for one, will certainly be monitoring exactly how many of these proposals are acted upon this year.
In particular, I believe the mental health services recommendations should be a priority. The report states that the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service is severely stretched and not able to satisfy demand. There is no suitable inpatient facility for young people with psychiatric illness and there is no specialist service for young people with dual disabilities such as mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction. These are urgent matters. If the Government can outlay half a million dollars for a consultant to perform the site location studies and associated tender processes for the design of the ACT prison, as set out in the draft capital works program, it should be a priority that resources are allocated to children at risk programs which can help our families, neighbours and friends in the suburbs every day. There are existing programs that have a proven track record, and there is evidence that the money is not only well spent but also an investment in our community.
I mentioned in my inaugural speech the Project Saul program. It costs a minimum of $90,000 to place a juvenile in Quamby for 12 months. Compare that with the resources of Project Saul, which has had 60 participants in the program in the last 12 months. Project Saul receives $16,000 per year in grants, plus a vehicle. Of the 60 participants, there has been a high level of success, including the following examples: A young male, 17 years old, who committed an armed robbery, not only was put through the program