Page 3217 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 13 November 2007

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Climate change, transport and community safety: issues that go to our quality of life. There are others. There is our wonderful health system—world-class, but having to work out new ways to satisfy insatiable demand. There is our education system—the best there is, and wanting to help take the territory even further forward in a competitive world. Today, I announce strategic and important investments in both of these crucial areas of government service delivery.

No Canberran should remain in any doubt of the government’s commitment to public health. Since coming to office, Labor has increased investment in health by $330 million. This bill provides a further $5.2 million in 2007-08 for a number of initiatives to address emerging needs and to address gaps. Today, the government commits resources to the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residential alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility; the establishment of a department of ophthalmology at the Canberra Hospital; the creation of a separate and clinically monitored children’s waiting and play area in the emergency department of the Canberra Hospital; and a campaign, in partnership with the ACT Division of General Practice, to attract and retain GPs, in order to reduce pressures on the emergency department.

This government’s investment in the territory’s education system is similarly unequalled in the history of this city. Today, the government commits an additional $6.5 million in 2007-08 to expand support and welfare services, including curriculum support for physical education, arts and language programs in schools, and the expansion of student welfare services in ACT public high schools with the provision of an additional pastoral care teacher in each school and the strengthening of alternative programs for students at risk.

The government is mindful of the important role that non-government schools play in the territory’s education system. The bill provides funding for the non-government school sector for participation in the May 2008 national assessment program, and to support improved student outcomes through enhanced information and communication technology, counselling services and other student equity needs. These initiatives for the non-government sector total more than $4 million over the budget and forward estimates period.

As the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, it gives me particular pleasure to be able, today, to commit significant resources to two areas of service delivery where we have perhaps the greatest hope of halting the dreadful waste of human potential brought about by intergenerational disadvantage. Today, I announce that the government will create a purpose-built residential facility for alcohol and drug rehabilitation for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Here, those Indigenous Canberrans caught up in drug and alcohol abuse will be able to find care that is culturally relevant and holistic. The bill includes recurrent funding of $300,000 and capital funds of $365,000 for 2007-08. The total cost of this initiative is around $10.8 million over the budget and forward estimates period. The next few months will be spent finalising the best possible model for this service, in consultation with the Aboriginal community it will serve. The search for a location that suits that eventual model will continue.

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