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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (22 October) . . Page.. 3891 ..

MS MacDONALD (continuing):

Mr Speaker, there is no better time to adopt a healthier eating plan and exercise regime than today. Spring is in the air, the days are warming up and daylight saving is about to begin. More sunlight hours offer Canberrans the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors for longer, to take a walk around the block before or after dinner, to do some gardening and play outside with the kids. It doesn't have to be something that is not enjoyable. Not only will getting out improve fitness levels but it will also give Canberrans the chance to catch up with neighbours and further highlight our community spirit.

So once again, Mr Speaker, I would like to congratulate and to thank Fitness ACT and all those people who worked so hard to get the Health and Fitness Expo "Keeping YOUth Alive"under way and make it such a success. I commend the motion.

MR PRATT (10.59): Mr Speaker, I rise to support the motion. I think this is an issue that very much goes to the heart of concerns that we have about our Canberra society. Initially, I want to congratulate ACT Fitness, and Dr Klein particularly, for their successful health expo and, of course, their consistent drive to put this issue at the forefront of the minds of Canberrans.

I had the honour to attend the Health and Fitness Expo. I spoke and participated in the workshop on childhood obesity, where a range of speakers were invited to talk about the issues, particularly as they affect the policy in schools.

Mr Speaker, this motion gives me the opportunity to raise again the issue of physical education in schools. Although I think the government has in place a good program, we cannot relax. We must seek to enhance that program. However, I note that the physical education program is not being implemented consistently across ACT schooling.

We on this side of the house have talked a number of times about the need to mandate a minimum level of physical education units in the school education program. In addition to that, we would like to see a minimum level of acceptable school sporting programs. We think this will help combat childhood obesity. As Ms MacDonald quite rightly pointed out, it is alarming to see the rates of increasing childhood obesity, and indeed obesity in society generally. There has been an alarming increase in obesity in this last decade and a half. We know that we are going to have to go into our schools and meet this head on.

I also propose-we have called on the government to implement this-that fitness assessments should be carried out in schools so that families can be told by experts the state of their children's health and fitness levels and so that schools can be encouraged to run the sorts of programs that are needed to target children who are having difficulty. Surely the time to combat obesity is in early school years. This is the time to set in place in the minds of our children a certain regime about how you should live your life so that you can be healthy and fit. Of course, school students who are healthy and fit will perform better mentally and get better results at school.

I would also like to say that the issue about competition being unhealthy is an absolute furphy. I will take this opportunity again, Mr Speaker, to say that we should not be frightened of the bogeyman of competition in schools. Surely we can organise our school sporting competitions to ensure that children at different levels of physical performance

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