Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1573 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

After these statistics, there is little comfort in discovering that there was a decrease of 6 per cent in the usage of soft drugs-cannabis, et cetera. I suspect that silver lining is tarnished by the suspicion that some of that 6 per cent graduated to something harder, cooler, or considered more glamorous.

We may take some comfort in the fact that we are slightly better off than the national average. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's national drug household survey, completed a year before the ASSAD report, over six years in the late 1990s, the usage of illicit drugs by teenagers has risen from 38 per cent to 51 per cent. However, despite our perceived comfortable community, we are not much better off than the national average.

Whether we admit it or not, our schools are the front line of the community's anti-drug campaign. I challenge parents in this Assembly to deny we have been concerned about these issues for quite some time.

As shadow spokesman on education, I am calling upon the education department, or DECS, to urgently implement a mosaic of activities-namely, a curriculum-integrated program, a life skills program and general drugs education program. This will provide information to enable the undertaking of interventions for children at risk, to allow treatments where necessary and, in coordination with the department of health, to follow up those treatments and exercise a referral program.

I do not stand here today to criticise the government, its departments or agencies, past or present. We all understand how tough life is for many families and the pressures eroding our society and its institutions. We know the pressures our principals and teachers are under, in many areas. I will not play partisan politics on this issue. Instead, I suggest that, as a community, we work together on this issue. I urge the government to take the lead in putting in place programs more vigorous and effective than those which presently exist.

The previous government implemented a series of activities and provided some resources in schools. I know the department had asked for more funds, and I applaud the department for having done that. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some schools are committed to comprehensive drugs education and harm minimisation interventions for children at risk. These schools utilise all available resources, inside and outside the school system-striving to make students aware of the harsh realities and the dangers. They work hard, they work intelligently and sympathetically to help children at risk-those in danger of addiction.

Mr Speaker, I have observed that drug awareness and life skills education is conducted perhaps a little haphazardly. Anecdotal evidence indicates that many schools are unable to convey a strong, holistic and integrated message. All suffer too little funding for drug education.

I do not blame the present government for that funding situation, but it is time we did something about it. Harm minimisation strategies predominate in the ACT community. I do not criticise harm minimisation as such-indeed, harm minimisation and harm prevention have an important role to play in drug awareness and intervention programs.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .