Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 August 2017) . . Page.. 2826 ..
This must begin in early childhood and care settings and in the homes, but schools are clearly the place where a progressive, caring government can help shape these children’s trajectories most by providing them with the best possible opportunities to close some of those gaps that may exist because of the circumstances into which a child was born. I know these issues are also close to the education minister’s heart. This is apparent in the future of education consultation currently, and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of that process and the input the Canberra community provides.
Certainly as Minister for Mental Health I am pleased to be able to inform policy and increase resources and expenditure to enhance support for young people in schools, as outlined in the parliamentary agreement. And certainly my time as education minister very much informed that thinking. It was made very clear to us—to me and to the Education Directorate—by principals and staff at the coalface that mental health issues are a significant factor for students, for our young people, and if we do not adequately address them they can be a barrier to learning. We certainly heard the voices of the Education Union, principals, teachers and parents of students across all sectors, and we have kept our commitments to improving mental and social support services, as evidenced by this year’s budget. An important part of my thinking there was to provide sector-blind services because these mental health issues do not affect one schooling sector more or less than another.
These are issues that are prevalent in all our schooling sectors and we need services that are available for as many weeks of the year as possible. I think it is important that we do not just provide mental health support services in term time. We need to provide them for as many weeks of the year as possible. That presents some challenges but it also means we are going to think creatively about how we provide those services. And that is a conversation that I will continue to have with the minister and with my own directorate as we seek to improve those services for young people in our community.
There are a couple of other elements of Ms Orr’s motion that I want to particularly comment on. One is the reference in paragraph 2(d) to community sporting groups and multicultural groups having access to school facilities. I think this is something that is very important. Our schools are a significant piece of government infrastructure and can go a long way to providing additional spaces that can be used out of hours for a range of community activities. Of course many already are, but I think there is certainly scope to continue to improve that. I am mindful of the role that the new Charles Weston School plays in the area of Molonglo, where, as those suburbs are still very much in their early development, the school is the key piece of infrastructure at the moment and the way it was designed was very mindful of that. As people’s understanding of this is improving, accessibility to the school out of hours has been enhanced in the design of Charles Weston School to maximise those opportunities.
Schools can also provide important sporting infrastructure, and I know there is work going on on that. Certainly in my time as education minister and when Minister Berry was the minister for sport we were able to make, for not a lot of money, an adjustment at Deakin High School to provide out of hours access to the school hall for the