Page 4137 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013
The project is about identifying a specific population that is at risk in the community and preventing families from going in and out of crisis services. In the longer term, it is about helping young people to achieve more in their lives when they are older.
I would also like to briefly touch on children’s health. Early intervention plays an important role in ensuring good health in children and young people. The Greens have long been advocates of preventative health, and for young people this includes maintaining a healthy lifestyle, keeping a healthy diet and exercising regularly. We all know habits started at a young age are very hard to change later in life. Unfortunately, problems relating to obesity can start at a young age, and the ACT has seen an increase in rates of younger children being overweight and obese. By the time children are in year 6, one in four children in the ACT is now overweight or obese. This is a worrying statistic and one which we can work to address now.
Teaching children what foods are healthy, introducing them to a broad range of fruits and vegetables and helping them to understand that treats are, indeed, only occasional and not a regular part of their diet is a big part of that. As well as parents doing this at home, schools and childcare centres are also playing an increasing role in this learning.
The government’s recently released towards zero growth healthy weight action plan includes a broad suite of ideas which can be implemented across many government directorates and which will contribute greatly to improvements in children’s health.
Increasing levels of daily exercise in children’s lives is another important step, and this can be done not only at school but also by parents enabling their children to walk or ride to school, not even necessarily every day. But if parents are able to factor this into their timetables at an early age, it pays back in the long term by children being able to get to school by themselves at a later age as well as being healthier.
Encouraging children to get involved in regular sporting activities, swimming classes or team sports is also very important, not just for their health but also for their social and emotional lives as it helps them develop friendships which revolve around sport and exercise.
In summary, the timing of this MPI is very positive as it coincides with the launch of the discussion paper on the blueprint for human services launched by Minister Barr. This important work which will engage all of the community services ministers—Mr Barr, Ms Burch and me—will seek to address some of these key life points and develop a better, more comprehensive, flexible and responsive early intervention system. It is important that we all recognise that early intervention is an investment in our future and that governments sometimes need to pay more now to reap the social benefits later.
MR DOSZPOT (Molonglo) (4.06): I welcome the matter of public importance that Mr Gentleman has proposed for discussion today. However, it leaves me a little perplexed as to exactly what is going on within the ranks of government. Yesterday we had the minister for education failing to support what is arguably the most significant single advancement in improving outcomes for Canberra’s children through early intervention services. Today, Mr Gentleman has brought on this matter for debate—his MPI being the importance of early intervention in improving