Page 2754 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 16 August 2005

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use. Clearly, there remain challenges and there remain problems, but I am of the view that the government has a strong record, a strong program, and we will be continuing to build on that in future years.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (4.30): Further to Dr Foskey’s matter of public importance, which amicably aims to introduce new and expanded services in the ACT to address drug use by Aboriginal people, I would like to contribute by mentioning another angle that perhaps is lost in the push for new services or the expansion of certain services or highlighting the level of funding required to adequately combat drug or other substance abuse in general in our society.

Drug and other substance abuse is unquestionably a serious issue faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. Whilst substance abuse is an all too sad reality in any society, many people do not know the facts surrounding drug use and its devastating impact. As a first step, rather than seeing any new services, may I suggest that it would be encouraging to simply see further funding support and focus on equipping existing services in the ACT, such as Winnunga Nimmityjah Health Service, to home in on early intervention by encouraging young Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders to feel they will be listened to and also provided with access to the mediums that they as young people feel comfortable with in accessing the necessary information to make informed decisions about drug and alcohol and other substance misuse. There is a real need for Aboriginal-focused services and I commend the I want to be heard report, an analysis of the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to which Dr Foskey and the minister have referred. It is worthy of a read.

There are such facilities as Karralika, Canberra Recovery Services and the Ted Noffs Foundation. All offer respite care but, due to funding constraints, are unable to meet the specialised needs of Aboriginal people, such as attitudes to living, value systems and family networks. I highlight here that it is most important to meet the problem before it escalates to the point where young people in particular do not have the support network or the ability to reach out for help.

We must work to meet people at their point of need to encourage further education and involvement. I would like to point out an example of an excellent resource and network where young people can access information, reach out for support and, at the same time, engage in an activity they enjoy—music. The Vibe website is an encouraging example of a way to reach out to youth, in this case indigenous youth. Such avenues of access also provide room for young people to express their opinions and thoughts through music and via an online community forum. The website offers resources that can assist young people to better understand the impact of drugs and the way they affect individuals, families and communities. On the other hand, direct contact with elders and other key members of the community should be of paramount importance in any recovery/rehabilitation process for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To put it plainly, if, for example, the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre is to effectively get off the ground, it would be encouraging to see this facility also offer young people the chance to actively engage with their community elders in a range of activities including music, art and Aboriginal lore. We have a unique opportunity in the ACT not only to highlight the regional heritage, culture, music and dance of Aboriginal peoples, but also to ensure that strong connections are maintained

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