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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1672 ..

MRS DUNNE (continuing):

benefit for people in the group who were visited and were taught parenting skills and how to nourish their children both physically and emotionally.

Some work was also done to help mothers find employment and improve their education skills. There were lower rates of imprisonment, drug addiction, crime and recidivism both in the mothers and in their offspring. This shows what can be done with a simple and small amount of intervention early in the lives of young children to help to build and strengthen our society so that as many families as possible are functioning families.

I would like to pay tribute to an organisation in my own electorate, the Dream Centre at Charnwood, which is spending a lot of its time and energy reaching out to the families of Charnwood and surrounding suburbs to provide early intervention programs.

One program I have heard about but have not had an opportunity to visit yet is one that brings young mothers in for an afternoon, takes the children to playgroup and spends time looking after the mothers, giving them a massage and a little bit of TLC. On many occasions this is what young mothers, particularly mothers at risk, need. They need to know that somebody thinks they are worth while, and from time to time they need a bit of time out and a bit of time to themselves.

Ms Dundas spoke with regret about the propensity of the federal government to talk about families in the context of mothers. Although sometimes we are uncomfortable talking about being mothers, when we talk about families in this place it is what we come back to. We might feel uncomfortable about the 1950s model of an ideal family, and Ms Tucker, Ms Dundas and Mr Corbell might have talked about the complexity of families and their complex interactions, but we all hark back to what it was like in the 1950s, whether we liked it or not.

In closing, I commend the motion to the house. I commend the families of the ACT to this government.

MS MacDONALD (5.39): I thank Mrs Cross for her motion. It is timely on the International Day of Families for the Legislative Assembly to reflect on the importance of families and how we can continue to support them.

The minister talked about changes in family structures over the past 30 years. Canberra is a special community and has seen a lot of changes over time. Pressures on families in the ACT are exacerbated by factors such as a high divorce rate, a highly mobile population that means a lack of extended family support and community networks, a widely dispersed population, and a high work force participation rate that means less time for families and community networks.

We need family support services that strengthen family relationships and improve family capacity to care for children. We want to emphasise the strengths, skills and abilities of families to solve problems and achieve goals rather than focus on weaknesses.

Successful support programs for families need to have a prevention and early intervention focus. They should strengthen a broad set of family relationships between all the diverse people that make up families.

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