Page 200 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 10 December 2008

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Belconnen—I am thinking particularly of west Macgregor—there will be an increase in the school-aged population in those areas that will partially offset the ageing of the other surrounding suburbs.

Of course, government planning policy plays an important part in that future infrastructure. Future infill development in some of those west Belconnen areas has the potential to again mitigate the decline in school-aged population. Where we go with new land releases will have an impact in terms of our strategic planning, not just in west Belconnen but elsewhere in the city.

The government then, following that piece of work earlier this decade, undertook—and it has been referred to today—a further significant piece of work in relation to the Towards 2020 program, looking at where our school needs will be over the next 10 to 15 years. As part of that exercise, firstly, there was the commitment to a $45 million new school on the site of the Ginninderra high school but also further investment in public school infrastructure and further mapping of future needs. Again, it was against the backdrop of a decline in school-aged population but pockets of growth, most notably in Gungahlin.

If I were to sum it up, the difficult decisions the government took in relation to school closures were all about reinvesting in our public education system and providing schools where the students are. Undoubtedly, that is in Gungahlin.

Bimberi Youth Justice Centre—opening

MR COE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Children and Young People. Minister, I refer to the official opening of the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre on 3 December 2008, six weeks prior to the ACT elections. Today, more than three months later, the facility is not ready to receive youth offenders. Minister, why did the government open Bimberi, to great fanfare, when either it did know or should have known that the facility would not be ready for offenders for some time?

MR BARR: I thank Mr Coe for the question and for his interest in youth justice matters. It is pleasing to see that his so very compassionate opening speech yesterday extends to people who are unfortunately engaged in our juvenile justice system.

I will forgive Mr Coe, due to his inexperience, for perhaps not being aware that in opening a new facility such as Bimberi there would be a commissioning period. We are currently in that period where staff familiarise themselves with the new facilities and the practices and procedures that are necessary for a facility of that type.

I am sure the shadow minister would not want us to rush residents into the new facility and risk that facility not being ready and staff not being appropriately trained. I am sure we would not want to see—I am sure the shadow minister would join with me in this—a situation where the process was rushed and something went wrong.

I believe it is appropriate that there is a period of commissioning. I indicated when Mr Coe raised this in the media last week that the residents will be in place in Bimberi prior to Christmas, but I am not going to publicly name the date, for obvious security reasons. I will be visiting the new facility myself later this week—

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