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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 3629 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

a high priority in his mind."On behalf of the people of Tuggeranong Valley, Brindabella electorate, I say thanks very much to the minister for a brilliant piece of work.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Safety of young people

MRS CROSS (4.04): I move:

That this Assembly calls on the Government to introduce a trial, similar to the 'out of harm's way agreement' trial currently being implemented by Warringah Council, New South Wales, that increases the safety of young people through strengthening the relationship between young people and their parents or guardians.

The out of harm's way agreement operates with the support of the northern beaches police. The agreement is a positive initiative, designed to make alcohol and substance use by younger people safer, through strengthening the parent/child relationship. In essence, parents and younger people sign an agreement setting out their responsibilities. This agreement is not enforced as such, but is kept and discussed within the family. It is a simple method of highlighting the great importance of communication between parents and their children.

Parents agree to be there for their child, or their child's friends. They agree that they can be contacted at any time, and they agree to organise transport home or to a safe place for their child and their child's friends. Further, and probably most importantly, the parents promise to discuss any issue in an open manner, without showing signs of anger or disappointment. Instead, the issues will be dealt with at a later time.

This is extremely important because it helps the young person feel less threatened and freer to discuss any issues troubling them. The importance of having a family dynamic like this, rather than a situation where a child is punished without defence, or discussion of the real issue, is immeasurable.

Young people must also agree to discuss an issue in an open manner, at a time that suits both parties They also agree to reach out for help if they or their friends need it; to not abandon any of their friends; to not leave their friends alone while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs; to seek medical assistance if required; to not drive while intoxicated, or get into a vehicle where the driver is intoxicated; and to contact their parents or guardian if there is a major change in plan.

This openness is extremely important. It eradicates the gap that exists between what parents think their children are doing and what their children are actually doing. In essence, it eradicates fear. Parents live in perennial fear for the safety of their child, especially when they do not know what they are doing or where they are. Conversely, young people live in fear of being punished for taking part in activities like underage drinking. A program such as this eradicates, or at least reduces, these fears.

Young people push the limits, and they always will. They will try new things and experiment with life. They take risks. There is nothing new about these phenomena-they are simply facts of life. Punishing the child is not going to stop them.

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