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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 348 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

rate is high. Indeed, it may be higher than it is in other places because it is probably masked by the high retention rate within our school system of young people who might well not be in the school system were there to be jobs available.

One of the most compelling arguments for dealing with one aspect of this problem is the argument that we ought to be working harder to provide jobs for young people. It is all right to say that we should be providing better education as that creates better opportunities for young people, and that is true. At the same time, society has changed a lot over the last couple of decades, becoming a society which is much more worshipful of the cult of the individual. That, of course, puts a great deal of reliance on competition for positioning in the community. It places a great deal of pressure on young people about image, and a good image is associated with success. Not even in paradise can everybody be a great success story. At the end of the day, I think it still comes back to the problem of giving people decent jobs in a decent society so that they have a level of self-image which they find comfortable.

This is particularly shown up, it appears to me, in the suicide rates of young men. I will wager that drug and alcohol use is behind much of the difficulties there, and I see that that is an issue which is mentioned in this paper. I think I could safely say to the Government now - and I think they will probably agree with me - that this will not be enough, but it is a step in the right direction. It is something that we all wish to address because it affects so many families not only in our community but in communities right across the country. A comprehensive approach is needed to deal with it and I trust that this will go, if not all of the way, part of the way to dealing with it. Over the period to 2001 I hope that we will be developing more weapons for our strategy to deal with this issue.

I go back to the point where I began. I think one of the most important issues that we have to deal with for young people is standing in the community. Most of that ties in with being able to get decent jobs and decent careers out there in what is really a very wealthy community. I think it is an indictment of us that we have in this Territory such a high youth unemployment rate.

MR CORBELL (4.29): I do not want to prolong the debate any longer than necessary, but it is important that this Assembly recognise the development and the work that have gone into the development of the ACT's first youth suicide prevention strategy. This is clearly one of the most pressing issues facing our community today. Our youth suicide rate is a worrying and very concerning state of affairs. It says a lot, I think, about young people's views of our community and of the future of our society. When it comes down to it, it highlights the need for us to look at how we view our own society, look at how we view the young people's place in it and look at what we can do to address the concerns that they have and address the outlook that all of us have on the future of our community and society.

The consultation process that occurred throughout the prevention task force's work was, I understand, very effective. It certainly received a wide amount of acceptance and agreement from people involved in the development of the strategy. Clearly, the challenge now is to face the issues addressed in the strategy and start to do some work in implementing measures to reduce this terrible toll which not only the ACT community but the Australian community faces every year.

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