Page 4132 - Week 11 - Thursday, 21 September 2017

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I thank in particular Dr Jeff Fletcher and Jarret Anthoney, Dainere Anthoney’s brother, from Dainere’s Rainbow for their official roles in the morning tea. It was also wonderful to meet the family behind Maya’s Rest. The month of September is dedicated to raising awareness of childhood cancer. Every day in Australia three families are told that their children have cancer. This is a devastating fact, and our hearts go out to those children and their families.

I thank everyone in Canberra who has shared their story of cancer with me, and I encourage all Canberrans and members of the ACT Assembly to continue to promote awareness of cancer in all its forms. If we have learned anything from the work of Connie and the many organisations at our morning tea last week, it is that early detection is key. I pay tribute in particular to Ms Cody, who shared her early detection experience yesterday. Not in the words usually spoken by a health minister to raise awareness of detection, I use Connie’s words in this instance. She often said, and some of her last words were, “Ladies and gentlemen, check your boobs and check your balls.” Vale, Connie Johnson.

Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders—solids program

MR MILLIGAN (Yerrabi) (4.35): I want to raise a concerning matter in the Assembly, the imminent closure of the solid young fulla’s and sista’s program. I want to begin by offering my condolences to Bill Bashford, who lost his mother just yesterday. I first heard about solids from the folk at Gugan Gulwan. They spoke highly of the program and its impact on the children. I spoke with Bill Bashford late last week and was taken by his passion for the program he initiated and runs, but mostly his passion for the children from his community.

Solids has been operating out of Ngunnawal Primary School, supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth to complete their education. The program has had a significant impact on the lives and wellbeing of young members of the Indigenous community. Solids aims to build strong leaders within the Aboriginal community in the Canberra region. It works by keeping Indigenous children in schools. We know that when children stay in school they stay out of trouble.

How does solids achieve this? It is by starting with positive students, spending considerable time each week sharing their positive stories. Helping them share helps them to gain confidence and respect for each other. But there are also activities that link them back to their culture and family, activities such as arts, sports and dance. Bill tells me that recently they had a visit from the Indigenous dance company Bangarra, who showed them how to express their stories using dance, reconnecting them to their culture.

Solids rewards children for school attendance with rewards such as movies and going tenpin bowling. But it is more than a culturally appropriate reward-based program. Working with the community leaders, the program offers mentoring and support and, significantly, it is widely supported by families who come in and help. In return, the parents then help and support each other, get jobs and improve their lives too. It is

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