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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 587 ..

MS DUNDAS (6.19): Mr Speaker, I will be addressing both the substantive motion and the amendment. We are talking about what has become a very debated issue in this chamber-the bushfires and how we respond to them. It was and still is a quite traumatic and emotional time. We all have a sense of what needs to be done, almost what should have been done, and we all wish to contribute to that debate.

We have before us in the form of Mr Pratt's motion some very sound ideas about how we can progress education on fire prevention, and I think through the debate this afternoon we have all agreed with the importance of education on fire prevention and how to deal with bushfires. But how that education is put out and received is something that I believe warrants further investigation.

I was concerned about the section in Mr Pratt's motion that relates to the school curriculum component. As we all know, our school curriculums are incredibly crowded with subjects that were once considered to be the responsibility of parents to impart to their children, but we now recognise that schools have a greater social role than just imparting algebra. This means that the curriculum is incredibly crowded.

We have to consider what is most beneficial to students in the ACT, and how we can best impart that knowledge. The education union has informed me that bushfire education was already being incorporated into curriculum, specifically through the Birrigai outdoor school programs; that the department has planned to include bushfire education in the curriculum; and that following the events of January, that content was to be expanded.

Every ACT public school student usually has the opportunity to participate in a program at Birrigai, and this will include bushfire education. The Birrigai services are also extended to Catholic systemic schools and other non-government schools. I am sure that the bushfire education component will be part of the broader consultation that the current minister had spoken about with the rebuilding of Birrigai and the continuation of outdoor education and outdoor school programs, which we know are an important part of new learning methods for our young people.

So, in a sense, I believe that the second part of Mr Pratt's motion is already under way-that we are already looking at how bushfire education needs to be included in our school curriculum; how it already is included in our school curriculum; and how that can be expanded.

There are concerns about making our houses and our living environments safe from bushfires. I guess they will never be completely safe, but it is incredibly important to consider how we can impart knowledge so that residents are aware of what they can do in event of a threat and how they can get an understanding of how emergency services will disseminate information, and the first part of Mr Pratt's motion relates to that.

I think we need to further explore whether briefings are the best way to go. Some people respond well to one-on-one information; and some people will not be able to attend one-on-one information sessions. But the flip side of that is: do we want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars writing to every householder informing them of what to do if a bushfire approaches? All of these things need to be considered.

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