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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 1297 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

understands the realities of all that and is approaching it quite sensibly. I am quite proud that he has been able to think in those terms at such an early age.

I, too, shall be attending Youth Week. Indeed, this old carcass has been sucked into a soccer game somewhere and that will be my means of celebrating Youth Week.

MS GALLAGHER (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (8.35): I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak today on the motion brought forward by Ms MacDonald on the importance of young people to the ACT community. This importance was never more evident to me than during the bushfire crisis experienced by all of us in January of this year. Despite the negative view that some have of young people, I was made aware of many instances of young people selflessly assisting others on the day of the crisis, 18 January, and in the days and weeks that followed.

I am aware of Deb Morgan, a young woman of 18 years of age who is a member of the Ministerial Youth Council. Despite losing her family home and church to the bushfires, Deb has spent many hours volunteering to help others in the community, particularly other young people affected by the fires. I have been told of the story of five young men who spontaneously assisted with the evacuation of elderly residents in the Weston Creek area on 18 January. When the Canberra community was most at need, these young people and many of their peers stood up to be counted.

We need to acknowledge that some young people struggle to deal with the complexity of issues faced by youth today. These young people, in particular, require our collective support and encouragement. This government wants to encourage all young people to reach their full potential, to achieve a real sense of purpose and belonging and ensure that they are recognised and valued as members of our community. To achieve this, we have to build on the strengths of young people and encourage the development of the personal resilience that underpins the key relationships and connections that are important to the lives of all of us.

This government recognises the importance of providing assistance to young people who, for whatever reason, have additional support needs or have already become disconnected from their families or the community. In last year's budget, we did commit more than $3 million for new youth initiatives, such as the high school development program, an indigenous youth drug and alcohol project, funds for the student pathway initiative, increased funding for adolescent mental health services, additional youth services in Belconnen, and funds to establish Youth InterACT, the youth consultation and participation initiative.

I am aware of the issues that have arisen from the decision to index the community sector at only one per cent last year. I met with the Youth Coalition last week for a couple of hours. Prior to that meeting I had read through their budget submission, which had, I think, 86 recommendations. I told the Youth Coalition at the time that, in an ideal world, you would fund every single one of the proposals that they brought forward in that submission. It is something that I am very conscious of. I think the community sector did take a hit last year with that indexation. It does impact on service delivery and we need to acknowledge that.

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