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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2995 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

condoms. Young people have spoken to me about double standards. They have said, "We are continually told that we need to be having safe sex and that we should be using condoms but then we cannot access them because our schools refuse to have them. We cannot find them, we cannot get hold of them."They have said that this is very confusing.

Report after report shows that the rates of sexually transmitted infections are increasing, especially among young people, not just here in the ACT but across Australia. There is a lot of concern around the world about the spread of HIV and AIDS. Recently my attention was drawn to a quite shocking statistic that every day 3,500 young people contract HIV. This is a shocking statistic about what is going on in our world today.

We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand about this and say it is not happening in Australia, so we do not need to talk about condoms in schools. We do need to be talking about safe sex education. We do need to be talking about condoms in schools, and we need to be doing it in a way that realises that young people do have sex. They might not be doing it at school but it is something that is happening, and we cannot continue to wrap our children in cotton wool and think that they will be okay.

A number of points are raised in this report about substance abuse, violence and bullying. These practices are impacting on our children and we need to take positive steps to address these concerns. About a month ago I was speaking to a young woman about her drug taking. This 15-year-old drinks quite substantial amounts of alcohol, she smokes, and she uses illegal drugs. The reason she does so is that she believes it gets rid of her problems. We tried to explain to her that whilst these drugs might get rid of her problems for an hour or a day, they will not solve them; they will not make the situation better in the long term.

We are not doing our children any good if we allow them to engage in a perpetual cycle of thinking that there are escapes to the issues facing them. We need to be teaching our children as soon as we possibly can to look after themselves, to practice safe sex, and to be able to speak out against violence. We need to be doing this now. Unless we look at this debate in a proper way as opposed to just pretending that our young people are all okay, we will truly devalue and fail them as they try to become vibrant members of our community, both at a young age and as adults. I truly hope that we do not let that happen.

I commend this report and I thank the Health Committee for the work that they have done to bring it together. I hope the government considers all of the recommendations seriously and that we can finally get rid of the draconian education department policy that says that sex is only for procreation, that young people don't procreate and, hence, we don't need condoms in schools. I am horrified that that is a policy that exists in the ACT today. We need to grow up and address in a healthy way that values our children as vibrant members of the ACT what is really happening to our young people.

MS TUCKER (10.59), in reply: I thank members for their contribution. I will respond to some of the points that Mr Cornwell raised. His first complaint was that there were not any costings. I was not aware that this had been raised before as a serious issue, though I understand Mr Cornwell has been raising it in his own committees. This is an interesting question because if we are going to demand that committees cost every single recommendation, obviously that is going to be a cost on the government, and I do not

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