Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1697 ..
MS MacDONALD (continuing):
stand out. If people see more warnings on foods and read them more often, then they will know what they are actually eating, whether it tastes good or not.
That was in the section of the report that I had a particular interest in-the nutritional health of young people. That section highlighted that it is not just about giving the messages to young people in our schools. It is also about ensuring that the adults-their parents and grandparents and any role models they have-are also getting those messages and passing them on to their children and grandchildren.
The committee heard some alarming statistics about the number of children who do not eat breakfast, which we all know significantly impedes children's ability to learn. In fact, all people's ability to function is impeded if they do not have a nutritional start to the day and do not get their metabolism going.
I have a concern that information about how to prepare nutritious meals is decreasing within our community. That correlates to the increase in obesity in our society, as was highlighted by another of our witnesses. It means that our young people will have a different target to aim for in the future. They won't necessarily look back to a youth where they were fit and healthy; they will be looking at their childhood as not as healthy as somebody of your generation, Mr Speaker, or mine.
This report covered a wide range of things and, as Ms Tucker said, it is hard to single out one area that is of more significance than others. Of course, I had an interest in the nutrition area. Another area that came up was the mental health of our children. Mental health issues seem to be starting at a younger age, but the lack of school counsellors and counselling services is one of the biggest issues that came up.
I am pleased that the Treasurer's budget for 2003-04 has now introduced within the education budget the issue of providing a counsellor in every school. I am looking forward to that being the case, and I know that that will be welcomed in all of the schools around the ACT.
I might finish on those issues. I commend this report. It was a long time in the making, and we heard from a large number of witnesses over many months. I would like to thank all the witnesses who took time out to both present submissions and appear before the committee to give their views on a number of points.
We could not cover every issue that relates to the health of school-age children, from preschool right up to the college years, because they are ever emerging. If we had done that we would have been here for eternity. It is a thorough report, and I commend it. I would also like to thank the committee secretary, Ms Siobhan Leyne, for her extensive work on the report. At the moment, she is probably on a train going across Siberia or somewhere.
MRS BURKE (11.51): Speaking on the tabling today of this report, I consider that it should be noted that, although I was and am a member of the Health Committee, which is responsible for the report's production, I only came onto the committee at a very late stage-shortly after my return to this Assembly in mid-February this year. That was more than a year, I might say, after the committee had resolved to conduct the inquiry, in March 2002; indeed, some 21 meetings had already been conducted.