Page 2756 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 16 August 2005

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supports at this stage. Of course, we will be monitoring and keeping a watch, as is our role to do. We appreciate their position in integrating Aboriginal focus services with mainstream services in order to avoid overlap or repetition of service delivery. Rather than establishing new services focusing particularly on Aboriginal health care, I would say it is surely far more practical and sensible to build upon the arrangements that currently exist between the commonwealth and ACT governments.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (4.39): I do not have shadow responsibility for this area of policy but it is one in which I have taken more than occasional interest over the years, as has the Leader of the Opposition who has demonstrated a high level of interest in this particular field. And mine is not a recent interest. For the sake of alerting my colleagues to that interest, it extends back over many years.

I had the opportunity to serve on the federal ministerial advisory council on alcohol. Whilst some of those there tended to be mainly preoccupied with some of the more fashionable urban issues, I did take the initiative, not at public expense, of travelling to Arnhem Land to meet with community leaders and ascertain the impact of alcohol practices and the initiatives they had taken in those areas to improve the lot of indigenous people in those communities. I think you can learn a lot from getting into the frontline and actually talking to people in those communities.

We had also, I guess, about 11 years ago in Canberra a national conference on alcohol and violence, held at the ANU, where there were representatives from the indigenous community from throughout Australia who provided a valuable insight into some of the substance abuse issues that they had faced and had dealt with. It would always be my view that it is imperative, as your first port of call, to listen to the communities and the experience of people who are dealing with these matters on a frontline basis. I would point out that, in another life, through the University of the Northern Territory, I have also been involved in funding research in areas such as Tennant Creek to find out what the solutions were to matters such as alcohol abuse and the like.

My colleague Mrs Burke is very well across the finer detail of what is on offer in the territory and has taken the trouble to familiarise herself with many of the programs. I share her view that, when we are talking about matters such as this one which Dr Foskey has raised, it is important—and I do believe it is appropriate—that we not tackle these things on a party-political basis; it is important that we address matters, as the matter of public importance refers, of illegal and problematic drug use on a bipartisan basis. I think whatever can be done in terms of addressing these problems is worthy of our support.

Obviously, we would always like to see additional support for these areas where we do see progress, where we see a benefit for the community. Certainly the I want to be heard report provides a wealth of valuable information arising out of the study between the ANU centre and the health service in terms of dealing with some of these issues. I commend them on their series of recommendations—I believe there are 22—that are submitted for consideration. Although a number of the ones in the report I have are not quantified in terms of the additional support, they are all worthy of consideration.

There is support going on already of course. The minister has pointed out some of the areas where the territory is providing funds. We are aware also of commonwealth

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