Page 4145 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013

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Twenty-five years ago most Canberrans were either opposed to or ambivalent about a self-governing democracy in this capital. Yet two weeks ago I attended a University of the Third Age seminar with over 100 people and, goodness me, a combined wisdom of over 5,000 years, Madam Speaker. It was put to the meeting whether the ACT should continue our current form of self-government or step back to a lower level of government, perhaps a local council. On a show of hands, the vote was overwhelmingly 100 to 6 to continue as we are. Canberrans want democracy and a say in their own affairs.

Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders also want democracy and choice in their representatives locally and nationally. Furthermore, self-determination is a cornerstone of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I suggest the Prime Minister and his Indigenous advisory council chairman will only represent themselves, and the interests of Australia’s first peoples will consequently suffer.

Prisoners Aid (ACT)

MR COE (Ginninderra) (4.29): I rise this afternoon to speak about the work of Prisoners Aid (ACT). Prisoners Aid provides support to prisoners and their visitors here in the territory. Prisoners Aid (ACT) was founded in 1963 to provide throughcare services at a time when Canberra did not have a prison, a remand centre or even a parole service. Prisoners from the ACT were transported to prisons in New South Wales and reported once a month to a parole officer who visited from Sydney. Prisoners Aid members acted as de facto parole officers and assisted families to visit prisoners in New South Wales jails.

Since the opening of the Alexander Maconochie Centre, Prisoners Aid has expanded its activities. Volunteers with Prisoners Aid provide information, advice and support to families and friends of detainees when they visit the AMC. Staff and volunteers also visit detainees and provide support for detainees, particularly just before and after they are released.

Prisoners Aid also operates a court assistance and referral service at the ACT Magistrates Court. The referral service offers support to people charged with offences as well as their families, court officials, police, tribunals and parole officers. The volunteers and staff of Prisoners Aid come from a wide range of backgrounds but all of them are committed to helping prisoners and their families when times are tough. As Dr Hugh Smith, the president of Prisoners Aid, said: “We are trying to reduce crime and do ourselves out of a job. Of course, we won’t succeed totally but we won’t give up either. We look forward to the next 50 years.”

I place on the record my thanks to all those involved with Prisoners Aid (ACT), in particular the committee: the president, Hugh Smith; the vice-president, Shobha Varkey; the secretary, Brian Turner; life member and volunteer, Bill Aldcroft; and the committee members, Clair Natali and Seija Talviharju. I also put on the record my thanks for the great work done by Paul Thompson as the manager of the service. I thank all the volunteers from Prisoners Aid. For more information about the work of Prisoners Aid (ACT) I recommend members visit their website at

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