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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1583 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Basically, we still have in Australia a society where the most harm is coming from so-called licit or legal drugs. As a society, everyone drinks alcohol. Maybe there is someone here who does not drink alcohol-I do not know. At most functions I go to, adults drink. They drink to relax. They do not think it is okay to have a social function without alcohol-to do so would be quite unusual. As someone who often does not want to drink alcohol, I see the discomfort of people around me concerning that.

We should be serious about looking at the issues of substance abuse in our young people. We look at surveys that say a certain percentage of young people say they cannot relax without alcohol, and that that is the best way to do it. If we recognise that the greatest harm is from alcohol and cigarettes, then we must acknowledge our own role in that, as adults. Have a look at all the media that is around. The films and popular culture that people-not just children-watch supports the use of substances to alter consciousness. It is mainly cigarettes and alcohol that people use to change their consciousness in this country. I think we should be clear about that.

The second important point, that I think has been raised by all speakers, is that we must understand substance abuse in the psychosocial context. We cannot just say, "We need drug programs." We need to understand why people take drugs.

Risk-taking behaviour is normal for adolescents-risk-taking behaviour with regard to sex and driving a car, for example. What do we do? We have safe-sex campaigns, and we have how to drive safely without ending up dead-type campaigns. That is what harm minimisation is about.

Our brightest, most intelligent and most creative young people are the ones who are most likely to be taking these risks-it is part of being a young person. We must look at how to minimise the harm, or potential for harm, from taking those risks. Risk-taking is one category of substance abuse, which can be normal, "young" behaviour.

We then have the question of those who heavily abuse substances. That is where you have to look at figures, such as those for children who have been abused. People who have been abused are more likely to be abusing substances.

MR SPEAKER: The member's time has expired.

MRS CROSS (4.59): Mr Speaker, when I first read media reports on the latest health department survey on illicit drug use among Canberra's student population, I was stunned by its contents.

I have heard Ms Tucker's speech and I understand that, as she states, some of the statistics remain the same. Only one went down, but most of them went up. I remain concerned. The Chief Minister described the survey findings as frightening. I agree with him-assuming the survey is accurate.

It is distressing to me to see so many of our young people using illicit drugs and being involved in the numerous problems inevitably brought by drug use. Admittedly, some experiment, to try something that appears exciting and new, and then never use them again. Some turn to drugs to help them cope with life or to make their lives less ordinary.

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