Page 1008 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Today, as I promised a year ago at the launch of the Canberra plan, I report back to the people of Canberra. Today is a chance for me to tell Canberrans what the government has done to turn their vision and our vision into reality.
Canberra’s greatest asset is its people. Most cities are defined, to a greater or lesser extent, by the thing that brought them into being: the coal they mine, their factories, wheat or wool. Since its establishment 92 years ago, Canberra has been defined by its major resource, its people. It is the responsibility of government to invest in that asset, to give every member of the community the opportunity to reach their potential, socially, intellectually, professionally, financially and physically.
That means understanding how failure or disadvantage in one area of an individual’s life can materially affect every other aspect of that person’s life. Poor mental or physical health, illiteracy, an unstable family life, homelessness and a lack of training—any one of these things can blight an individual’s capacity to reach their potential. That is why the support my government is giving under the Canberra plan is integrated, rather than piecemeal.
One of our proudest investments of the past 12 months has been in our first integrated child and family centre. The Gungahlin Centre is a hub for developmental programs, health and education offerings and parenting and family support services. It is staffed by social workers, psychologists, child and maternal-health nurses, speech pathologists and early-childhood educators. In just eight months, more than 1,000 Gungahlin locals have sought information on its programs; 250 have attended sessions on starting school, fathering boys, and building resilient children.
The centre runs a healthy eating program. There is a babysitters club for adolescents to teach childcare skills and positive parenting behaviours. There is an outreach paint and playgroup that sets up on the footpath or in the park, spreading parenting tips and putting families in touch with services. The centre is part of my government’s commitment to help Canberrans develop the personal skills they need to be healthy and happy.
Of course, in any community there will always be individuals at greater risk of exclusion from community life. Those with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. About 15 per cent of the working age population carries a disability. It can be a lonely burden; most disabilities are invisible. It can mean exclusion from the workforce or from other areas of community life, such as sport.
This year, under its community-governed innovation grants program, my government has given Canberrans with disabilities a chance to participate more fully in community life. About 100 Canberrans with visual impairments have been helped to participate in mainstream sports, for instance, with plans to help about 500 over the life of the program. Another program encourages women who use mobility aids to join exercise classes.
My government wants to see a permanent cultural change towards disability. In the first year of the Canberra plan we have invested $23 million in wheelchair-accessible buses. In the area of employment, we are taking the lead, adopting a public service-wide employment framework for people with a disability that commits us to ambitious, but