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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1666 ..

MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.10): Mr Speaker, the Stanhope government has a strong commitment to the very important and integral role that families play in our community, and we will certainly continue to invest in many creative initiatives that seek to strengthen and support families in Canberra. As Mrs Cross rightly points out, investment in families is an investment in the future safety and wellbeing of our children and society as a whole.

It is important that the International Day of Families continue to recognise the diversity of family forms that exist in our communities. Any definition of family must be inclusive of foster families, extended families and broader kinship networks.

Families are the single most important influence in the lives of children. It has long been recognised that the environment we live in has a profound influence upon almost every aspect of our physical, social and psychological development. Children who grow up in supporting and loving environments, generally speaking, have better life outcomes than those who do not.

It is a priority for this government to support early intervention and prevention initiatives at both universal and targeted levels. Ensuring that parents have access to all the information, resources and support they require to undertake the difficult task of parenting is vital. Current research clearly indicates that enormous benefits are realised for children in families through service, collaboration and partnership.

Holistic support for children and families can occur only when professionals from various sectors-including education, health, child protection, drug and alcohol services and community services-work together to wrap services around the unique needs of each family.

With this in mind, another priority for this government will be to ensure a seamless service delivery to ACT families across service sectors. The government is committed to facilitating the coordination of agencies and services in the delivery of programs that support families.

An excellent example of support across service sectors, and one this government wishes to continue, is the Schools as Communities program, delivered through the Department of Education and Community Services. Schools as Communities is a two-part program which aims to strengthen partnerships between schools, parents and the broader community. The program comprises a team of community outreach professionals who are located at eight school sites. These workers provide family support to parents and community development in the broader locality.

The second part of the program, strategic projects, provides funding for small-scale locally initiated projects that seek to strengthen the capacity of families and communities. Together these two aspects of the Schools as Communities program work successfully to assist families in practical terms to prevent child abuse and neglect.

I doubt if anyone would query why we need family support programs, but we need to consider the changes in our society and how these have affected families as a whole. Traditionally, families have relied on one another for support. However, the last 30 years

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