Page 1350 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 5 April 2005

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abuse affecting personal as well as family safety and security—inevitably, there will be a flow-on detrimental impact on the whole community.

A change in approach is required and it is required now. The achievement of any change will require high-level leadership from the minister and from his senior departmental staff. When we achieve an improvement in the quality of life for public housing tenants, we will also generate benefits for the whole community. To this end, Mr Speaker, we welcome the inquiry that is being conducted by the health and disability standing committee into housing for people with mental illness. It promises to be a most valuable inquiry and we anticipate that considerable benefits for people who have mental health issues and who seek public housing accommodation will come from this inquiry, as well as for the larger public that will be involved. Mr Speaker, I commend this matter of public importance to the Assembly.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (4.00): I rise to support this matter of public importance relating to the evident decline in service provision to Housing ACT tenants. One would have to ask why this has occurred, when we hear that the government is spending somewhere in the realm of $100 million—and we applaud them for that—to service 11,500 properties, in property and tenancy management.

According to calls to my office from tenants and housing staff alike, which I know the minister does not like hearing about, there is a clear lack of support shown by the minister for lower to middle management staff in the department. I fully support the work of the excellent staff in the department who are on the front line. These staff are simply not receiving enough support from senior management it would appear. They appear not to be adequately resourced from the logistical perspective and not to be equipped with the training to cope with difficult situations, which clearly require more involved support from senior staff or specialists capable of dealing with such issues as mental health.

It appears that the problem is now entrenched and is beginning to surface in the department. Evidence from numerous tenants—whom the minister’s office are well aware of too—suggests that if a complicated case is becoming too difficult to be handled by a housing manager or indeed a housing specialist manager, there are not enough support mechanisms being put in place by senior management to assist in garnering support from other specialist areas of the ACT public service tasked to deal with complex matters such as mental health, substance abuse and difficult behavioural patterns. Morale amongst housing department staff is extremely low.

I must continue to highlight the plight of the good tenants, who make up the vast majority, whom our public servants serve well under the conditions that they are now working in, and, I might add, who are now approaching the minister as well as the opposition. In the past, they were afraid to speak up about their experiences and difficulties in obtaining correct advice and affirmative action from departmental staff who, as I said at a recent meeting of a dozen concerned tenants, represent many more people too afraid to speak up for fear and threat of intimidation and retribution.

This is a real issue in itself. It is one that I have raised in this place before and that I broached with the previous minister. I am now at the point of calling upon the current minister to take action and listen to the calls for change in this area. He can and should

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