Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 582 ..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
danger and react during emergencies. The handbook contains specific advice on responding to fires, including bushfires.
All schools are also required to have a critical incident management plan and this plan must be reviewed annually. The plan has to include preparation, training, practice drills and procedures for immediate response as well as post-incident management; preparation of an emergency contacts list and development of procedures for all excursions; and implementation of an emergency evacuation drill at least twice a year.
We have also scheduled a further review of the critical incident policy in light of the bushfires in January. Since the bushfire in January, meetings have also been convened to provide support and assistance to principals, teachers and students affected by the bushfires. Information packs have been distributed, as have regular updates via emails.
Help in how to support families who have lost loved ones and homes has been provided to school communities. Also, extra counselling has been in place at particular schools since the beginning of the term this year to deal with some of the issues that the children affected may have. This is being constantly reviewed to make sure that those counsellors are in place where they need to be. Schools are also well equipped with guidance and policies to prepare, plan and react to critical incidents.
I support what Mr Pratt is trying to do-to look at whether there are gaps in the system and whether bushfire prevention strategies need to be taught in schools. I just think we need to be a little more considered about whether this is the right way to go. I want to see some evidence that such a program would be the right way to teach children about bushfires; whether it is the school's role.
As I said, I think we need to recognise that curriculum development is a very specialised skill and we cannot just decide that children need bushfire education because there was a bushfire in January. This does not support a change to the curriculum to the extent that Mr Pratt is seeking. So I cannot support the motion as it stands. The government will support the motion as amended by my amendment.
MR PRATT (6.03): I will not be supporting Ms Gallagher's amendment simply because I do not think we can wait for the outcomes of the inquiries which are now under way and which will take some time to be finalised. I think the community can pretty much identify that these types of measures need to be taken. I think they are pretty clear cut. There is a lot of feedback that these types of programs are quite viable, are needed, and we do not need an inquiry to tell us that much. Certainly, we do not need an inquiry to answer a thousand other questions. I believe that we can now get on with implementing the programs that I am recommending today.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (6.04): Mr Speaker, we had a debate on this very issue before the Christmas break, and at that time, if my memory serves me right, the government said, "Look, there are programs, they are in place, and it is adequate". I think what Mr Pratt seeks to do today is to simply say that in the light of what has happened and in the light of comments that have been made I think probably to all of us-certainly to members of the opposition-many people do not feel there was enough information around.