Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007
Parliamentary Record 12
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Wednesday 14 February 2007 3867 Sometimes the symptoms, or the facial signs of a child suffering from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome are quite prominent, but if you read the research, some of those features can be disguised and can manifest themselves as erratic behaviour. This certainly needs to be looked at amongst children in some of those areas because it does add to learning difficulties and the ability to be part of that society. I support the ministers statement. It builds on the fantastic work that has already been done. I go back to what he said: There is no simple solution or simple answers to these problems. Too true. We need to be vigilant. We need to take a stance. We have certainly done that. It is not about politics; it is about addressing a long-standing problem, and securing both resources and the meeting of minds to address what is something that has the greatest impact on society. Ms CARNEY (Opposition Leader): Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank both the members for Blain and Arafura for their contributions, which I thought were pretty good. I know the member for Arafura feels strongly about this issue. As she has said, she has spoken often and invariably with some degree of passion and with great sincerity from her own personal and family experiences and, indeed, those of her constituents. Thank you, minister, you are always good to listen to in debates of this nature. I am sure I speak on behalf of all members when I say I find your comments insightful and useful. There were so many interesting aspects to the statement, and thank you for bringing it to us. To a large extent, what I was going to say has been said by others on both sides of the Chamber. It is probably not important that I repeat them, but one interesting thing was on page 2, which said: The Territory spends millions of dollars on dealing with alcohol-related harm. For example, nearly $7m is committed to treatment services. I was surprised to see that figure; I thought it might be more. Having said that, $7m in a small jurisdiction per head of population is very significant. When one considers the multiple affects of alcohol, it makes the mind boggle. The member for Arafura mentioned some areas but, in a general sense, we are talking health, the legal system, our as in all Territorians - own culture, indigenous culture and white fella culture. It really does filter down and impact on so many of us in the Northern Territory. That is why your alcohol statement is to be applauded as a demonstration of effort on the part of government. Whilst I do not agree with every assertion, if I stand back from this statement, it is clear, minister, that you are committed to dealing with this problem. Having said that and, relatively speaking, I have not been in the Territory for all that long 18 years or so - I do not think it can be asserted that previous governments did not have that commitment. Did some things succeed? Yes. Did some things fail? Yes. Minister, sadly - and I am sure you will agree that this will be the case - in parliaments to come in the Northern Territory, there will be someone sitting in your seat and mine and every other seat here, and they will be talking about alcohol. Good luck because we, as Territorians, need every ounce of it. I do not propose, nor do we have the resources, frankly, to go through and do a summary of what was done 20 years ago. To a large extent, we need not dwell on that. It is important to go forward because future generations of indigenous and non-indigenous children are relying on you, minister, and your government for outcomes. Not all of the initiatives in here will succeed; you and I both know that. However, unless you have a go, you will never know. Equally, while there is a role for governments, there is also a role for people themselves. Given the rate of consumption or the consequences it has on our indigenous population, there is a necessity for Aboriginal people to themselves demonstrate some leadership in a similar way that you and all of your predecessors over a long period of time have shown when it comes to addressing this issue. There was a reference in the report to different regions having different priorities and needs. It is the case, when one talks about Aboriginal communities, that some are doing well. There are references to it in your statement. Some things are working well in some areas. It also follows, of course, that people in those areas are working well towards it. In other areas - and I am sure other members will talk about this in their contributions - they are just not working. No plans are working. The people themselves are not working towards it and it is very easy to become despairing when one sees what is happening. We need to remember that alcoholism is an addiction. It is a health issue. We know that there are law and order consequences and all that sort of thing, but it is an addiction and, clearly, treatment services that go well beyond the garden variety sobering-up shelter need to be adequately funded. They need to be expert in their nature, not just a shed or a daggy little building somewhere. They need good people working in them with a level of expertise in dealing with alcohol addiction.
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