Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1764 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
Another major problem facing community groups of many kinds, not just community services, is insurance. We have reached a ridiculous stage where a community group cannot without particular, express sponsorship or an enormous one-off insurance premium hold a simple public meeting-no dancing and no acrobatics at the local school hall.
Community services have been limited by insurance concerns. Some community development projects could not occur in the past year. In this budget I cannot see an initiative for, for example, school insurance to cover community meetings. I can find no money set aside for insurance solutions for community groups, although there is a commitment in words to work on the problem.
Insurance is a problem bigger than the ACT. Insurance companies have their own agendas and government is working on solutions. While this situation is not of the government's creation, it imposes increased costs on allowing for social activity. I cannot find anything in this budget that indicates an understanding of the impacts on the broader community sector.
In regard to education, the funding for youth workers in schools can be seen as answering the calls for partnerships between the youth sector and schools to provide improved support for children at risk. This initiative is welcome. It is certainly something that has been recommended in a number of committee inquiries that I have been involved with in this place. It could be a tremendous initiative if the government is prepared to work on a partnership model with youth sector providers.
For kids in trouble at school, having easy access to non-teaching staff, non-education department youth workers, avoids the barriers to support when the workers can be seen as part of the system. Dr Walter de Oliveira, a leading world expert in working with disadvantaged young people, spoke very highly of the youth sector here when visiting Canberra earlier this year. We are lucky to have them here. Their commitment, expertise and understanding of the job have to be commended. His presentation to ACTCOSS on building a sustainable society hinged on listening to and working with people in need of support and recognising individual needs. This initiative could assist in building stronger constructive links between schools, students and the society.
The RecLink funding is good. It is useful to end the uncertainty around a successful program's continuity. It is disappointing, however, that there is not funding to expand other successful programs for young students outside the school gate. Programs like the messenger program and the Gungahlin Youth Centre's linking program with Gold Creek, et cetera, for high school students have not been built upon.
What we would like to see in high schools and colleges in particular is a real commitment to taking the school and students out to the community. We need to get beyond seeing community and public as competitors and recognise the relative strengths and how much can be done for kids by engaging between these two different sectors.
We are pleased to see efforts being made to strengthen the government agency's response to children at risk of abuse, but this remains an area of concern which we note has not been adequately dealt with in the past. We will be watching that carefully.