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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 182 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

Furthermore, for these young people to access the kind of safe environment provided by this specific crisis accommodation often comes at the cost of attendance at school? In these circumstances, the inadequate provision of youth emergency housing places additional barriers before young people who are already in crisis. When a young person-indeed, any person-experiences a crisis, such as having to escape domestic violence or suddenly losing their accommodation, the last thing they need is to be isolated from many of the other relationships, activities and support networks that could help sustain them through such a crisis. This Assembly should be deeply concerned about a state of affairs that makes it so difficult for young people in distress to be able to attend school.

Young people's lives, like all our lives, are comprised of various elements, all of which have the capacity to harm or to help development and happiness. Shelter and accommodation at a time of crisis are surely among the most fundamental of services that the ACT government can hope to provide. This government should aspire to provide the service in a way that does not compromise young people's engagement in the other aspects of their lives.

In attempting to understand young people's lives, it is important that this Assembly views them in a holistic way. The needs of young people cannot be neatly divided into education, housing, socialising, and so on. All these aspects of young people's lives are interconnected, as they are for all of us. For young people it is especially important to not disrupt the mutual development of these various aspects of their lives. For young people in crisis it is crucial. In light of these very important considerations I ask the Assembly to support my motion, and through it the young people of the ACT.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.18): Ms Dundas raises a very important issue today, as it affects young people in their need for safe, secure and affordable housing. Indeed, the general issue of affordable housing is one that we consider a priority. As in many other cities around Australia, housing in the ACT is becoming increasingly inaccessible for an increasing number of people because of its cost and the broader issues of emergency and crisis accommodation as well. The issues of young people and the particular problems they face with accommodation is a priority for me, as the Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, and for the new Labor government. Housing is a key social justice issue. The capacity of people to participate in society as effective citizens has been shown to be directly linked to their security of tenure and stability of housing choice.

So it is in that context that I agree with the sentiments of Ms Dundas' motion that emergency crisis accommodation is an important service to young people. I also agree that young people should have emergency crisis accommodation near their support networks wherever possible. It is incumbent on all governments, and it is certainly incumbent on the new government, to respond to this very important concern. Significant territory and Commonwealth funds are already being spent in the ACT to address these needs. For example, in my portfolio the most significant program for crisis support and accommodation for young people is the youth supported accommodation assistance program, which totals $2.2 million.

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