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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 9 April 2008) . . Page.. 1185 ..

I congratulate the government on the mental health step-up, step-down facility, on the new youth justice facility and on the expansion of the Junction Youth Health Service. We know that mental health and youth justice are key and complex issues and require careful and considered responses. I know that the step-up, step-down facility was subject to a lot of community concern, but it has been positively welcomed by pretty much most of the groups.

We were concerned after the 2006 budget about the impact it might have had on homelessness services. Homelessness for young people is again being raised as a big issue in the ACT, as elsewhere, and we know that, if housing is not affordable, young people will feel that most. Young students coming from elsewhere and trying to find accommodation in the ACT are having really huge problems that have not yet been overcome. There are certain areas that we do not really see as young people’s issues, but young people are particularly impacted by them.

Another concern has been the inadequacy, at this point, of services to deal with dual diagnosis. We know that, despite the government’s steps towards improving dual diagnosis in the ACT and even with extra funding, more is still required. It is a growing problem, along with the need for other drug and alcohol services. We need a more coordinated response. Again, we need to have various agencies involved—not just health—in these issues, because it impacts on housing and a lot of other issues.

Education, of course, is important. We need to understand that every change we make to the education system affects young people and especially affects those young people who belong to families that do not have a choice, that rely very much upon the public system to be excellent and to provide them with all that they need. Apart from education, we need more counselling in schools. We know that is an issue. I know the government has tried to put more resources into counselling but, in this increasingly complex society, the problems for young people increase too.

There is one group therapeutic program, run by Marymead, in some Canberra schools. It is commonwealth funded and works with children on the cusp of suspension. I would really like to see that program stretched across the system, because it is a six-week program that creates lasting improvement in the classroom behaviour of the participants. We know that suspension is a problem. Some organisations have asked me for in-school suspensions to be made first off, because what happens when you suspend a child or expel a child is that they are out on the streets—their homes do not offer havens in many cases—and we are doubling the risk that those children face.

There are a lot of issues around if we are going to really show that we are committed to young people, and it is a whole-of-government thing. We know that a city that is kind to young people and child friendly is also good for elderly people and other people as well. I really commend the UNICEF child friendly cities program, and I ask our planners, our educators, all our services providers, and municipal services, to put children at the heart of their policies.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (12.01): I too thank Ms Porter for putting this motion on the paper today. Mr Seselja mentioned at least one of the groups that I think we need

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