Page 1010 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 15 March 2005

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Commissioner and plans for a bushfire memorial. At a cost of about 35 cents per household, we believe this newsletter could develop into a cost-effective way of keeping the community informed and engaged.

My government wants to reach people where they live, but we also want to use the language they speak. That is why, last November, we published a Plain-English Guide to the ACT Human Rights Act. We do not want Canberrans to feel that this is a law comprehensible only to lawyers. We want them to know it is protecting the basic rights of people just like them and their neighbours and their workmates.

A strong community is informed, but it can also be informal. It can let its hair down. Over the past year the government has played host to some of the best parties in town:

Christmas in the City

a New Year’s Eve that Canberrans are still talking about

an Australia Day that brought record crowds out into our streets and parks, and

just this weekend, an unrivalled birthday party in Commonwealth Park.

Of course, people will only come to the party if they feel safe on the streets or in a crowd. The government is helping people feel safe. In the year to December 2004, motor vehicle thefts in Canberra dropped by a third. Reported assaults were down by nearly a quarter. In May and August 2004, the ACT had its lowest burglary rates for four years.

Just last week, we announced the design consultants for a state-of-the-art ACT prison. By 2007 we will at last be in a position to take responsibility for our own prisoners. We will do so in an environment where a human rights culture prevails and where rehabilitation is a priority. It has been said before, and it is worth repeating: our offenders are sentenced to imprisonment as punishment, not for punishment. It is a distinction the ACT government is determined to preserve.

Just as people need to feel safe, they will only be in a position to participate fully in the celebratory aspects of community life if they enjoy good health, physical and mental. In the past year, the government has been developing the highly successful Canberra After Hours Locum Medical Service, CALMS. We have also negotiated with the commonwealth an extension to the Outer Metropolitan GP incentives scheme, which will help local GPs recruit overseas-trained doctors. Elective surgical procedures in the six months to the end of January 2005 were the second most numerous on record—evidence that our additional funding is yielding results.

Education and training are two other areas where it is utterly crucial that Canberrans are given the opportunity to reach their potential, not just in their formative years, but again and again over the course of a lifetime. The youngsters just starting out in kindergarten in Canberra’s schools this year are being prepared for jobs that have not even been given names yet. Over the course of their working life, most people will now change career a number of times. Our schools need to equip Canberra’s young people for this future.

That is why the ACT government has just conducted a major review of curriculum, the first in a decade. The result is a new curriculum framework covering every year from preschool to year 10. Every year 10 student now benefits from pathway planning and

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