Page 1995 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 7 June 2017

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MS BERRY: I thank Mr Steel for the question. All public schools are there for all children in our city. As I have said before, our schools are diverse and inclusive. They embrace difference. Nobody should be excluded because of their background, culture, gender, class, religion, sexuality, ability or wealth. Everybody in our community is a little bit different. Diversity is beautiful, and the government is committed to supporting it.

We are committed to enabling children to be themselves without prejudice. We are committed to including all children as they are and ensuring that children grow up with respect for diversity amongst their peers. Alongside academic skills, schools support young people with vital social and emotional learning. All of our public schools strive to be safe, respectful and supporting environments, and there are a number of initiatives in place to help schools to achieve this goal.

In 2016 the government established the safe and supportive schools policy. This policy reflects the national safe schools framework with the goal of assisting school communities to develop sound student safety and wellbeing practices. Schools must provide an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. I am happy to advise members that in the budget presented yesterday the government has committed $400,000 to the continuation of the safe and inclusive schools program in ACT public schools.

Alongside this important announcement, the government is focused on getting in early to ensure that student health and wellbeing are prioritised and that intervention is available to address, for example, the mental health needs of ACT children and young people. The budget commits nearly $2.5 million for the first five of 20 additional school psychologists to support student wellbeing and mental health outcomes for students and the wider school community.

There are so many factors that influence the opportunity that a child has to learn during their time spent at school. Addressing these factors is an important part of promoting educational equity. (Time expired.)

MR STEEL: Minister, how is the government ensuring that ACT schools are safe, inclusive environments for students?

MS BERRY: Our students present to schools with a range of personal characteristics including diversity and gender identity and presentation, sexual orientation and intersex status. There is, in fact, no binary. The government is committed to respecting, welcoming and celebrating diversity. We will not accept prejudice, discrimination, harassment or violence in our schools. A vital part of ensuring this includes ensuring that school communities have access to resources and support to provide a safe and inclusive environment.

The government’s commitment to fund the ACT safe and inclusive schools program will provide schools with the support and resources that they need through the program. On an opt-in basis, schools will be able to seek out guidance for good

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