Page 3469 - Week 11 - Thursday, 15 November 2007

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pre-school to year 2 schools. These schools will provide integrated services for children from birth to eight years and a comprehensive range of services to families, such as childcare and family support.

Vocational education and training is also an essential component of a skilled and economically vibrant community. The government has responded to the demand for apprenticeships and traineeships in the ACT by providing an additional $6.2 million over four years in the 2007-08 budget for vocational education and training grants.

Total health care expenditure in the last budget increased to $802.4 million, an increase of around 70 per cent in expenditure since 2001-02 and roughly a 42 per cent increase since 2003-04. This extra funding has made a real difference in the life of Canberrans. It has meant that many more people in our community have access to elective surgery and it has enabled us to fund an extra 60 acute care beds, 20 in the last budget alone. It has provided more dental care to people in need and it has given greater access to aged care and rehabilitation services. It has helped ease the stress of a hospital visit for young children by redeveloping the paediatric area of the emergency department of the Canberra Hospital to make it more child friendly.

It has reached out into the community to promote healthy and active lifestyles supported through the health promotion grants, through which we provide $2.2 million in funding each year to support highly valued activities and projects. It has improved treatment and care for people with a mental illness, with the ACT and commonwealth governments jointly supporting a multimillion dollar investment in the national mental health action plan.

When investing in our people, the government is confronted daily with funding challenges and requests. But safeguarding the needs of people with a disability is an area of indisputable need. Programs to support this aim featured strongly in the 2007-08 budget in which we delivered an extra $15.8 million for additional individual support packages, carer support and respite, and improvement to community access programs.

Maximising our tourism, sporting and recreational opportunities has also been a key area of investment for the government. Stromlo Forest Park, which opened in January this year, is a world-class site for cycling, running, horse riding and mountain biking. One of the government’s proudest achievements in relation to creativity was the opening this year of the Canberra Glassworks. I am delighted the Glassworks has received the enthusiastic support of both sides of politics, and I encourage all members of the community to savour the benefits of Australia’s only cultural centre dedicated entirely to contemporary glass art.

The second strategic theme of the Canberra plan is building a stronger community. The evidence of the community’s response to the bushfires of 2003 and to individual tragedies that emerge throughout the daily lives of our society proves beyond any doubt that we have a very strong community. Thus, it is the role of government not to create what already exists and flourishes, but to nurture and extend it and encourage its evolution as it faces emerging needs. But while our sense of community spirit is not in question, a strong community needs, as a whole, to feel safe and secure, to feel confident and able to participate in community events and to have access to life’s essentials, such as affordable housing.

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