Page 1544 - Week 05 - Thursday, 7 April 2005

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calls over recent years. The number of calls in 2003-04 was nearly double the number of calls in 2001-02. There has been an enormous increase in calls relating to suicide. I would be interested to know whether ACT government funding has increased commensurate with the demand.

There are occasions when people calling Lifeline’s crisis telephone service, including those experiencing homelessness, are unable to be referred to appropriate services because all services are full. This is very difficult for the person concerned and all of those involved in supporting that person—for example, case managers and social workers. This highlights the need for ongoing mechanisms to monitor unmet need and direct resources to address that need.

The gambling care program funded by the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services does an excellent job but has limited capacity. The information I have indicates that the funding provides for just one full-time management position, one part-time gambling counsellor and one part-time financial counsellor. Limited resources can result in delays for gambling counselling, when timely access would have considerable potential for benefit. Given that we have over 5,000 people experiencing gambling problems in the ACT that we know of, and just 252 accessed the gambling care program in 2003-04, there is significant scope for expansion.

Gaps that have been identified in the past include: no after-hours gambling counselling services; no regional counselling services, that is, in the surrounding regions of the ACT, particularly Queanbeyan; and the lack of capacity for education in prevention strategies. In addition, recent research by the Centre for Gambling Research titled Help-seeking by problem gamblers, friends and families: a focus on gender and cultural groups identified the need to expand the quantum and diversity of support available to people experiencing gambling problems to include a coordinated network of cultural-specific services and gender-specific initiatives and that education about problem gambling and the support services available should be directed to friends and families, including cultural communities. I hope to see these recommendations acted upon in the future and I am sure that Lifeline has an important role to play as a major provider and innovator in gambling support in the ACT.

I have raised these issues because I think it is important not just to identify the valuable role that Lifeline play but to consider how we may assist them to improve their services even further. I express my support for their work and, of course, encourage everyone to attend the book fair this weekend as a way of assisting this valuable organisation to raise funds.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (4.05): I wish to add my support for Ms MacDonald’s and Mr Hargreaves’s words in recognising the valuable contribution Lifeline Canberra makes in supporting the ACT community, and in acknowledging those from Lifeline that have joined us this afternoon in the public gallery.

Mr Hargreaves has outlined the ACT government’s support of this organisation through the provision of funding to Lifeline’s many services. I want to add my support for Lifeline by drawing members’ attention to Lifeline Canberra’s vital role in relation to emergency and crisis responses to critical incidents, in particular the January 2003 bushfire emergency and the recent Asian tsunami disaster.

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