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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3646 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

In a former life, when I was investigating changes to the ACT health system, which I was in charge of at the time, we tried to introduce a new model of health service with multidisciplinary teams. I am sure the Chief Minister will remember those days. We moved from the Gough Whitlam largesse, removed the God syndrome of doctors and empowered the health centres through multidisciplinary teams to deliver a service. That was a singular success in reaching out to the community and saying, "What you need is what you get."

I went around a couple of states, in particular South Australia and Victoria, to try to find out how they operated their health services. I was struck by the visit I made to North Coburg in Melbourne, about two kilometres from where I grew up as a kid. There was an enormous cultural problem in that area, as people would know if they have ever been down Sydney Road. You have the Greek bit, the Turkish bit and the Italian bit. Sydney Road is a snapshot of Europe.

What I did not realise was that in Coburg and Brunswick there was a significant Muslim community. In the provision of health services, the cultural differences in the Muslim community reared up rather nastily, particularly for women. There was no way they were going to go along to a non-Muslim male doctor. The males in the family were not going to let them anyway. They had to figure out what they were going to do.

The health centre was run from a shopfront in North Coburg. It was almost in the Coburg town centre. It was just about down the road from the Town Hall and your beloved institution Pentridge jail, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker. It was run by women. There were no doctors on staff. Female doctors were contracted in. All the staff were women. They outreached into the community. A Muslim Arabic-speaking social worker went with them.

The point I make is that cultural difference meant that these people were not getting the health services which the rest of the community enjoyed. The bureaucracy said, "We have to do something about it." With some help from multiculturalists and the department of health, they tackled the problem in a positive way. I am pleased to say that the service is excellent. It is a great model. If we ever decide to look further into our health service, I would recommend it very highly.

Religious differences are always difficult. There are tensions right round the world, as we know, with our people in Afghanistan. We know about the Irish problems and all that sort of thing. As far as I am aware, religious intolerance has not reared its ugly head all that badly in the ACT. I would suggest that that may be because we have embraced different cultures warmly. With a bit of luck, we can continue to do that.

I urge the government of the day, whoever it may be, to show the same warmth in embracing the difficult cultural lifestyles. Some Asian people are getting a name for indulging in criminality. A few years ago, at the interchange in my area, there were some gangs of a particular ethnic type. We need to address such issues. In developing our attitude, philosophies and policies on corrections, we need to embrace that. If we do not, we will live to pay a big price.

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