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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2889 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

I would hope therefore that the government will continue to keep a very close eye on this matter because, I repeat, it is possible for these things suddenly to get out of hand. I am pleased that we are holding the line at the moment. On behalf of the people who need those facilities, I would hope that the government will continue to keep a close eye on this situation, as I certainly intend to do.

It is difficult, however, to estimate the future demand. It may increase. We suffer from not only the people who age in the territory but also those who retire to the coast and subsequently come back to Canberra when they get older because they need better medical facilities. But there is a third factor here. That, of course, is the people who move here from elsewhere to be close to their children, perhaps more particularly their grandchildren. I am pleased to say that this is a matter that I did raise with the briefing group, Chief Minister, and I was very pleased to hear that they are aware of this problem and that they do recognise that there are pockets or areas of Australia where the demand for nursing homes is greater than elsewhere. Nevertheless, I would hope that we will keep a very close eye on that.

The funding for psychogeriatric care is also welcome. I would hope that we will continue to watch the need carefully because, as I said earlier, it could blow out at any stage.

MS TUCKER (8.32): I have a few comments to make in this area. I have already made some comments generally about process and I will just say that I think that they apply in this area as well in terms of actually enabling community input to policy development. There have been some good initiatives from the government in this area and some processes have started.

I want to make a quick comment about maternity services. In estimates, the discussion seemed to get stuck on the number of women who would be able to be observed by student obstetricians. The point that has to be made in any discussion about maternity services and the midwifery program is that it is about women having a choice in terms of where they give birth, how they give birth and whether they want midwife-led care.

Obviously, there has been a lot of discussion about how that can be facilitated. If you have midwife-led care for birthing mothers, the birthing process has to be supported by midwives who have experience or training in midwife-led care, because there is a different philosophical approach from that taken in hospitals. We know that there are a couple of midwives in Canberra who are accredited as independent midwives. It is extremely important that the skills of those midwives be utilised in the support, training and work of any midwives who choose to support home births particularly and midwife-led care generally.

It would be a great pity if that expertise were not recognised and used. In my view, we would have a serious situation because, if we did not have the independent midwives with experience and accreditation in this area to ensure quality, there would be a real danger of a system failure occurring which would not be in anybody's interest. Obviously, it would not be in the interest of the particular women, but also it would not be in the interest of the industry, if you like. It would not be in the interest of women in the ACT if, at this critical period, midwives were not supported properly by trained, independent midwives helping them to learn how to work in midwife-led care in women's birthing options. That is an important issue in terms of enabling women to have

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