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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3079 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

system are not adequately supported to take into account the diverse needs of students, particularly troubled kids and vulnerable kids, so alternatives have to be available outside the school gate.

That takes me back to comments I made about the two services that did not get money. As I said when we were considering JACS, school exclusion was one of the characteristics found in a lot of young people who came into contact with the criminal justice system. It is not news to anybody, I am sure, but I want to highlight that we have an incredibly important opportunity when young people are at school to turn their lives around. I know that people know that, but I am asking that we be more specific about how we are going to achieve the commendable changes outlined in the "Within reach of us all" document.

MR STEFANIAK (5.29): I mentioned in my general remarks on the budget that one of the disappointing aspects of the government's education budget was in relation to the non-government schools. A lot of expectation was built up with extra moneys flowing to the budget as a result of the government abandoning the previous government's free school bus scheme. I am well aware that the government's commitment to do that was quite popular. I think a lot of people were disappointed, however, to see how some of that money was not spent.

I recall going to meetings prior to the election and hearing what the non-government schools were expecting. A number of people in the non-government sector might also have voted for this government, despite the very clear enunciation by the former government of what it was going to do.

I was very saddened to see an article in the Catholic Voice which bemoaned the fact that of the additional expenditure on schooling about only 5 per cent went to the their sector, despite the obvious needs there. Most speakers today have indicated that that sector, which accounts for about 28 per cent of our school students, has very real needs. That is a disappointing part of this budget. We await with interest the Connors review to see whether any improvement is made.

Mr Hargreaves: Watch this space.

MR STEFANIAK: "Watch this space," Mr Hargreaves says. I will believe it when I see it. It is important for any government to be a government for all sectors. When I was minister, I thought there was a need for further expenditure and emphasis on the high school years, especially on preventative programs and programs to assist difficult youth. My colleague Mr Pratt mentioned some programs in this budget, but that is an area that needs attention and will continue to need attention for a considerable time.

Mr Pratt was right to mention drugs. Whilst some of the programs in the schools are very good, a lot more can be done there. We need to monitor programs to ensure they are adequate.

I was concerned that although some programs were good other programs were not particularly effective. It is crucially important that we have in our schools programs which warn students about the danger of using illicit drugs and assist in steering them away from drugs. Sadly, there will always be some people who will take illicit drugs.

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