Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (6 June) . . Page.. 2040 ..
MS MacDONALD (continuing):
The indigenous health and community services that commenced in 2000 in Canberra are important foundations but not the solution. Services must be expanded, facilities must be improved and attitudes must be changed. Canberrans pride themselves-
MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member's time has expired.
MR SMYTH (4.01): Mr Deputy Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak on this issue. It is an important issue, and Ms MacDonald said she did not want to trivialise it by continuing to attack the Howard government. It is curious that she spent nine of her 15 minutes talking about the failings of the Howard government, when the matter is the importance to the Canberra community of the state of Aboriginal health.
The easy thing to do would be to poke back, but I will just make three quick points. The previous Labor federal government never apologised, they fought the stolen generation and their compensation claims in the High Court, and they fought Eddie Mabo in the High Court against his land rights push. I think you should consult your history before you make such patronising comments about the-
Ms MacDonald: The stolen generation report came out under the Howard government.
MR SMYTH: The stolen generation was occurring before the Howard government. You cannot blame the Howard government for the stolen generation. Mr Deputy Speaker, if Ms MacDonald is truly interested in the state of Aboriginal health in the territory, she should ask the health minister for a look at his incoming government brief or perhaps get a brief from the department on what is actually happening-not just in health but also in housing, education, policing, even in planning-across the territory.
Procedures, processes and programs have been put in place to start addressing the unmet needs of indigenous Canberrans. I do not believe that is enough; I believe there is more to do. We should be encouraging the new government, in their first budget, to build on the commitment and the work that was done by the previous government.
There are approximately 3,000 people in the ACT who identify themselves as being of either Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage. There are estimated to be another 3,000 people in the surrounding region. We know that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has a much lower age profile than the non-indigenous population, a fact which reflects higher fertility rates and lower life expectancy. As the Chief Minister mentioned in an answer he gave in question time, life expectancy and other things we take for granted are still not accorded to indigenous people, even those in the ACT.
The major issues affecting the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders include injury, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, diabetes, cardiovascular and circulatory diseases, mental and spiritual health and trauma from poisoning. We have used the words "mental and spiritual health" because it is a recognition and acceptance of the difference of indigenous peoples. That is why one of my initiatives during the previous government was to name a suburb in Gungahlin "Bonner" after a significant indigenous Australian. The streets in that suburb will be named to give recognition and acknowledgment-to build the bridges that are so important.