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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1576 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

I end by saying we cannot be complacent about the ASSAD findings, or about the feedback we are receiving from the general community and the school community. Drug programs are not keeping pace with growing addiction. That is not necessarily anybody's fault, it is just the way it is. Drug education in schools is simply not keeping pace.

Mr Speaker, we, the community, are failing in our duty if we do not dramatically improve the programs in our schools. I urge the government and, through it, the department to take urgent action to improve drug education-and divert some of the $27 million education funding to this purpose.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (4.30): Mr Deputy Speaker, there is no doubt that the summary of the findings of the most recent ACT secondary schools alcohol and drug survey reinforce in our minds the concerns we all share about drug use among young people.

Those findings certainly highlight a number of types of activities which all members in this place would find concerning. However, in responding-often emotionally-to those figures, at the same time we must think very carefully about how we respond to one of the most difficult and intractable problems faced by our society as a whole: illicit drug use and its consequences.

In that respect, schools are not unique in the circumstances young people and others face in relation to drug use. It is therefore unreasonable to suggest the problem must be tackled wholly in schools. There is a range of measures which should be occurring across the community to continue to address the issue of drug use.

Today we live in a society where young people grow up knowing that adults use legal and illegal drugs. Correspondingly, there is a level of experimentation among a number of young people in relation to the use of illicit drugs-and, indeed, legal drugs.

To respond to this issue, Mr Deputy Speaker: I will highlight a range of measures which are now happening in our schools. This will give an indication of the diversity of activity going on. It is not the case that we simply need a uniform range of measures to be implemented in schools. We need a diversity of measures, a myriad of programs and activities, which highlight the problems and dangers and which, more importantly, seek to address the underlying issues that drive people who choose to engage in both illicit and legal drug use.

Issues of self-esteem, engagement and participation are the key challenges to address in our schools, as much as the information process in relation to drug use. I will come back to the issues of participation and engagement a little later, but will firstly outline some of the measures which currently take place in ACT schools.

A great example of the drug education prevention programs that have been developed, and continue to be developed, in ACT public schools is a program that has been developed in the year 9 exhibition program at Canberra High School. Students have developed a very exciting range of activities around the theme, "A drug-free Canberra-is it possible for young people?" They have put together a booklet outlining how they are thinking through this issue.

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