Page 4142 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013

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Another initiative we see in the early intervention work is the increased referral of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and first-time offenders to the restorative justice process. There has been a 45 per cent increase in the number of Indigenous offenders referred to restorative justice. In addition, 53 per cent of all first-time young offenders are referred to the restorative justice program.

Another early intervention model for young people is the redesign of accommodation support services through Narrabundah House. Representatives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community have certainly worked in partnership with the directorate on this program and its new design.

I would like to thank Mr Gentleman for bringing this matter on today, and I am sure that all here will support that early intervention is a very critical part of service provision.

MS BERRY (Ginninderra) (4.21): I rise to speak on this matter of public importance, the importance of early intervention in improving outcomes for Canberra’s children and young people. As a parent of two young children, one recently diagnosed with a learning difficulty, I know firsthand how important it is for governments and communities to play a helping role in getting young people to develop to their full potential.

As Mr Gentleman said in his speech, and I will quote him because it is worth repeating:

… early intervention is of vital importance in improving the lives of children and young people at risk in the ACT. We know that children who get off to a good start in life are more likely to do well. We also know that young people who have strong, protective factors in their lives, such as a supportive family environment, are more likely to do well as they move into adulthood.

I know from my experience working with families in west Belconnen how important and helpful services and programs such as child health nurses are in helping young people develop their skills and knowledge for raising their children.

Focusing on the importance of early intervention provides us with an opportunity to highlight the role of active government as a force for good in our society. That a government would have strategies, programs and services in place that are designed to help children and young people and their families as they develop into adults and full citizens is something that most people would expect. It does not come as a surprise, and conversely if we were to roll these programs back it would, I suspect, provoke an outcry.

We on this side see it as a natural extension of democracy and, indeed, our responsibility to ensure that government has a positive and constructive role in the development of our children and young people. It is good policy, and it is the right thing to do.

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