Page 236 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 28 November 2012

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The Greens have been pushing for many reforms in this area, and for children specifically. To improve the health of all students, we would like to protect children from targeted junk food advertising, improve school canteens and expand breakfast clubs, and create more school gardens.

We understand that public school canteens are becoming increasingly complex to run and manage. This is due in part to fewer parents having the time to devote to volunteering and the increased work of complying with new policies. We also know that many school canteens across the country are ill-equipped to provide fresh and healthy food, with only heat-and-serve facilities and insufficient fridges and cooking areas. We would like to see the ACT build on the success of our well-established and successful school gardens, support young people to learn about more sustainable patterns of living, and build capacities for thinking, valuing and acting to create a more sustainable future.

In terms of the breakfast clubs, research studies indicate that children who eat breakfast perform better in school. Unfortunately, it is estimated that approximately 25 per cent of children regularly miss breakfast. Around the country there are hundreds of breakfast clubs which provide healthy food to children who may need a better start to the day. This is something that we need to think about very closely here in the ACT.

The Greens of course have been speaking about dental health, a very important part of overall long-term health and eating habits. It is certainly disturbing to hear of people who simply avoid raw fruit and vegetables because their teeth cannot cope with them. That is why we have pushed very actively at a national level to have denticare come onto the national agenda. We think there is a range of improvements that can be made here in the ACT to increase access to dental care.

There are a number of items in the parliamentary agreement which directly address healthy diet and lifestyle issues. In light of getting close to our adjournment time I will not go into details on those now, but I know that a number of members in this chamber have taken a very close interest in the parliamentary agreement, as question time demonstrated today. I look forward to a range of questions about those items at a later time.

I will simply conclude by saying that the Greens have long argued that preventative health is an investment that pays high dividends for people, the community and the health system. We believe that the best way to improve quality of life, health outcomes and ease pressure on acute health services is early intervention and encouraging healthy lifestyles. Thus, I will be supporting Ms Porter’s motion today. I thank her for bringing it on as an important matter that should be discussed in the Assembly.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (6.22): It is an important motion. As Mr Hanson did, I thank Ms Porter for bringing the motion on today. I would refer members to paragraphs 1(b) and (c). In paragraph 1(b) Ms Porter talks about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and preventative health strategies, and in paragraph (c) she talks about the ACT government’s current initiatives in preventative health.

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