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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1580 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

people were not having sex, claiming that abstinence was the obvious cure. However, I was advocating for a harm minimisation approach.

When discussing the issue of drug use with school-age children, I hope we can have a calm and rational debate, rather than scapegoating our young people or wishing blindly that this was not occurring.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I must admit I was not really that surprised to read the results. Drugs are part of this modern world, and experimenting with drugs may be just one part of a young person's life. We, as a society, must work to make sure it does not become the main part of their lives.

This report indicates that we have a lot of work to do. One major part of the survey shows that tobacco and alcohol are still the most common drugs used. The main difference is that young people understand that tobacco is harmful to their health, yet do not see the health risks associated with alcohol use. Strong, youth-focused programs that combine education, health and the risk of police action are required to ensure that the scourge of drug abuse does not envelop young people's lives.

This MPI is quite timely as, in Sydney at the moment, the third international conference on drugs and young people is taking place. This conference joins workers and researchers in health, youth, education, justice, drugs and politics. It was reported in today's Canberra Times that on the first day of proceedings policymakers were warned not to go down the "tough on drugs" route, as it may be counterproductive. Dr Rosenbaum warned that many advocates of the "tough on drugs" strategies have dug themselves into huge credibility holes.

The young people in attendance at the third international conference on drugs and young people back-up Dr Rosenbaum's statement by warning that the "tough on drugs" approach is just a waste of money. I repeat that harm minimisation is an evidence-based, effective approach to drug use.

As part of this survey I would like to have seen a question about the inhaling of volatile substances. Chroming is a particularly dangerous behaviour, even as a one-off, experimental, drug use. Young people engaged in heavy chroming behaviour need access to comprehensive interventions and support which address their needs in such areas as family support and other networks of care, mental health, accommodation, employment, education, recreation, creativity, general health, income support, therapeutic engagement-and other areas of specific need. At present, comprehensive interventions are not readily accessible by or available to at-risk young people. Unlike alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and illicit drugs, we do not have the statistics on the extent of the problem of chroming. I hope chroming is included in any surveys of this nature in the future.

Mr Deputy Speaker, last week we reached the first step-a recognition of the extent of drug use. Now the community must focus on the next step-education that promotes real solutions and not the scapegoating of our young people.

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