Page 3997 - Week 12 - Thursday, 20 October 2005

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Their letter was sent to me and, I understand, to other members. As members will know, I have lobbied quite hard for the ARHS, and I know that you, Mr Speaker, are an avid and keen train buff, as, I think, are Mr Gentleman, Mr Hargreaves and a few others on the other side and this side of the house. The society wrote to members to thank them and said:

I would like to thank the Members of the Legislative Assembly for their assistance in resolving the Canberra Railway Society’s tenure at Kingston. Mr Simon Corbell, Minister for Planning, recently confirmed that the Government had decided to grant the Railway Society a conditional lease over the 2½ hectare site for a minimum of 10 years, but probably 20 years.

The letter went on to thank the government and all sides of the house for the bipartisan approach. As I have said many times before, the museum site is a valuable place, and we do not need to lose that as a community. Given the developments of the Kingston foreshore, I still believe there are excellent opportunities to develop it and make it a real community site for a transport museum with other types of transport. I really appreciate what the government have done; it means a great deal to the Australian Railway Historical Society and they are absolutely over the moon. Again, my thanks to the government and for the bipartisan approach.

The second thing I would like to talk about relates to the fact that the federal government have been under the hammer. But, surprise, surprise, they do do some good things, despite what we might hear from government ranks in the states and territories around the country. Canberra will be among the first places to benefit from the government’s new family relationship centres, with Attorney-General Philip Ruddock setting aside almost $1 million over three years for a centre to be established in the capital in the next financial year.

Canberra was one of the first 15 sites selected for the new centres, all of which have gone to areas—and this is where it is a little bit challenging for us as a community—with high numbers of families with young children, divorced or separated families and blended families. I guess this is a community responsibility. We cannot legislate in this place about people’s attitudes. We cannot legislate against couples divorcing or splitting up or against the dreadful things that happen in families from time to time. But the centres will be the front door to the new family law system, as an article from the Canberra Times dated 14 October states:

As well as the Canberra relationship centre, Mr Ruddock and Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson announced that another $390,000 would be used to set up a new children’s contact service in the ACT, providing a safe, neutral venue for the hand-over of children from one parent to another.

It is absolutely critical that parents can feel safe when access to children is given; that partners can feel safe when that handover is happening. It is pretty sad that we have to talk about those sorts of things and pump money into that, but that debate is for another day. The article went on to state:

Requests for applications to run the new ACT centres are to be advertised soon.

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