Page 848 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 18 March 2015

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It is vital that the government also recognises work undertaken by our passionate, experienced and committed community sector to improve the lives of those in Canberra who are doing it tough. This is especially critical as we face the toughest external economic environment this city has faced for decades. For example, losing your job can not only have a sudden and profound effect on your feelings of self-worth and your capacity to get involved in community activity but also have consequential impacts upon the rest of your family household.

I am passionate about maintaining and improving equality within our community. We need to work hard to ensure that middle and low income Canberrans are not locked out of the labour market and not locked out of the housing market. Appropriate modern public housing and appropriate modern community housing are a practical measure of dignity, respect and opportunities for inclusion that is shared with residents. It must form an integral part of our community and is not something to be marginalised or ignored.

Earlier this year I announced the latest development of the ACT government’s renewal of public housing with the replacement of the Owen flats in Lyneham. This is part of a much broader renewal of public housing that will see more than a thousand modern homes built to replace ageing multi-unit developments, including several along the Northbourne corridor. Our investment in urban renewal presents an opportunity to carefully drive the transformation of the gateway of the national capital in creating a greater level of social inclusion while boosting economic opportunities.

Assisting those who have mental health issues is another indicator of a city that supports all of its citizens to reach their potential. The government has passed new laws to empower people with mental illnesses and their carers to have a direct say in their treatment plans. We believe that mental health patients should be afforded the same opportunity to have a view about their treatment plan as any other patient, if they have the capacity to do so. I am glad that these laws now enshrine these rights in legislation.

The government has introduced forensic mental health orders which provide increased oversight of treatment for some people with mental illness or mental disorders who are involved in the justice system. These measures will help ensure equal access to treatment for this often highly stigmatised group.

These changes conform to advances in human rights, including the ACT’s Human Rights Act and the UN convention on the rights of people with a disability. They place the ACT in the front rank of change to mental health law.

The ACT government’s ongoing program to improve mental health services to the people of Canberra will continue, including seeking ways to reduce the stigma of mental health for those who are affected in our community.

Our city has long welcomed members of our LGBTI communities. We keep taking practical steps to ensure that there is no unintended discrimination or diminution of their contribution in society. For example, last year we secured changes to the births,

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