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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 344 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

as being important for a sense of wellbeing in humans. While suicide usually results from personal experience, it represents the end of a spectrum of distress - from attempted suicide and ideation, depression, drug abuse, antisocial behaviour, disillusionment, demoralisation, and cynicism. I believe that it is important to raise this aspect of our society's response to youth suicide in a response to the youth suicide strategy, because if there is an acceptance of the population health approach, which involves lowering the risk for a whole population or subpopulation rather than just focusing on high-risk individuals, we have to look at the social, cultural and economic causes of the experience of young people in our community and that, obviously, is not a role just for government or legislators; it is a role for the whole community and for us as individuals.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (4.10): Mr Speaker, I rise to support the youth suicide prevention strategy. I am pleased that we have now got to this stage. I remember the original draft of the suicide prevention strategy produced by the ACT Youth Suicide Prevention Taskforce, which was convened back in 1997. It researched the issue of youth suicide and conducted targeted consultations. Its initial recommendations were collated to form the draft strategy which was released at what I felt to be a very moving ceremony on 30 January 1998. It was especially moving because some of the people there shared their experiences in relation to youth suicide. I was one of the speakers there and I said at the time that it was very much a problem. It is something that may not have touched everyone here, but when you have a close friend or relative who loses a young person in these circumstances, a young person who is there one minute, making a useful contribution to society and is gone the next minute, it is very sad and very sobering.

That has happened to me on a couple of occasions. I can recall what happened to a good friend of mine who was involved with me in coaching junior football. Through that I knew his son, although he was in an older team to the one I was coaching at the time. I can remember my friend Barry coming home one day from work and there was his son, who was about 18 or 19 years of age at the time, hanging from the rafters in his garage in a suburb in Canberra. What a shocking thing for any parent to find! That just indicates the extent of the tragedy. It certainly brought home to me the very real problems with youth suicide and the real tragedy of it. Part of my job as a prosecutor was to assist the coroner and it was always particularly tragic to see on not infrequent occasions the youth suicides that came before the court and the natural and obvious grief and concern to parents and other members of the family and to friends as well.

Youth suicide is an issue of great concern to all members of the community, and especially so to me. Apart from the personal experiences I have had with it and been touched by, in my role as Minister for Education I have responsibilities for the Children's, Youth And Family Services Bureau. I very much support the focus of the strategy on strengthening professional networks and increasing the training of professionals, as Mr Moore outlined when he presented the strategy to this Assembly. I would like to mention my own department's contribution to the aims and actions of the strategy. As mentioned in the MPI on Tuesday, which was on a slightly different topic, a wide variety of quality support services for young people is already provided through a range of networks. I am not going to go into those because I listed a lot of them in that debate.

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