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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (16 February) . . Page.. 174 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

well-resourced services, which actually are directed at prevention and early intervention as well as crisis management, we are failing our young people. Unless we are prepared as a society to question why our young people are increasingly alienated and demoralised, we are also failing them.

I am particularly concerned at a number of trends in government policy, not necessarily just the ACT Government but general Australian government policy - the scapegoating of young people, the continuance of economic policy which results in increasing unemployment for young people, the tendency to respond to antisocial behaviour of young people with harsh law and order responses, the way the media presents young people as problematic, the reduction of funding to education, and the diminishing of the value put on the professions which are related to care of children at all ages, whether it be child care, schoolteachers, refuge workers, foster parents or parents, for that matter.

Family support should be an absolute priority. We do not need to wait for evidence or reviews or strategies. The evidence is in. Families who are struggling must be supported if we want to avoid downstream serious negative effects for the individuals concerned and the whole society. Incarceration, drug abuse, suicide, psychological distress on an increasing number of people is a costly and distressing consequence of inaction in this area.

We are reminded constantly by the Government of our superannuation liability and our operating loss. I am reminding members that we are accruing other sorts of liabilities as we speak. The term "social capital" has become pretty well part of the debate. Let us add social liability to the debate too. It is a logical step. We need to acknowledge that by not acknowledging these liabilities we are choosing to ignore a large aspect of our responsibilities.

There are attempts being made internationally and locally to redefine progress. It is an important task. Unless we get serious about quality issues we will continue to get political spin-doctors creating a debate around false measurements, and everyone is the loser in the long run. These questions are, of course, not just for governments or for legislators. They are for the whole community. But, as legislators, we do at least have a responsibility to say it how it is and to work with the community to face these challenges.

MR RUGENDYKE (5.08): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, there are many services in the youth sector specifically directed at the personal development of our young people, and I would like to mention a few. As we have heard earlier, youth centres are vital to this situation. They focus on youth at the grassroots level, providing guidance and leadership on many levels, including day-to-day life skills, employment assistance, counselling and advocacy. The Junction Youth Health Centre is doing a magnificent job in catering for the health issues of our youth, covering such issues as hepatitis C, general health, substance abuse, personal hygiene and self-esteem.

I also believe that another role for the health industry is to monitor the health of the population from birth with regard to such things as foetal alcohol syndrome and foetal alcohol effect. It is my view that children born with these conditions are particularly susceptible to future criminality if not rescued at a very early age. I have looked through volumes of mug shots and come to the conclusion - there is no other way to say it,

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