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Thursday, 22 June 2000
Page: 18169


Ms HALL (1:23 PM) —Newcastle University is a wonderful institution in the Hunter. The university has a social work department that I have been working with over a number of years. I have had placements of social work students in my office, both when I was a state member and as a federal member. When I was a state member we had a youth needs study completed in both Swansea and the North Lakes or San Remo area and linking into the high schools and youth programs in those areas.

More recently, we had a look at the needs of older people throughout the electorate. Shortland is one of those electorates that has an ageing population—a lot of people over the age of 65 live within it. We then developed what we called an active quality lifestyle forum. We held our first one in November last year. It was extremely successful. Speakers came along and talked about a number of issues. It was not a forum where people talked about nursing homes and incontinence aids; rather, it was a forum where speakers talked about positive issues such as giving older people in our community choices about what they would like to do with the rest of their lives. It was recognising that people may be 65, they may be receiving pensions, but they still have options. Travel, legal aid and a number of other issues were discussed. At the same time, we invited a number of organisations to set up around the hall and present information about their organisations. Those present ranged from representatives of the University of the Third Age right through to representatives from nursing homes at the other end of the spectrum. It was such a success, with in the vicinity of 200 people attending, that we have decided to make it a biannual event.

As I have said, Shortland is quite a spread-out electorate which covers two local government areas. It covers both Wyong and Lake Macquarie. The first forum was held in the Lake Macquarie area. Lake Macquarie Council was very supportive. Jill Bogarts from the council came along. She provided a lot of information to the residents of the area. This time we are holding it at Toukley, which is in the Wyong Shire Council area. We are doing it in conjunction with the Toukley senior citizens. It is shaping up as being a very successful event. In November this year we will be holding one at Belmont, which is again going back to the Lake Macquarie area. I recommend this sort of forum to members in the House. If they are interested in finding out some details of how we run it, I would be quite happy to give that information to them. We have a person in our office who coordinates the whole project.

With the time I have remaining, I will move away from the seniors forum and tell you a little bit about the project that we are doing at the moment in the office in conjunction with the university. We have had a third-year social work student working on a community empowerment project. I have a number of morning teas within the electorate and at those morning teas people have said to me that they feel that government does things to them and they do not have the opportunity to have input into the process. Out of that I went away and talked to a few people. We picked out one section of the community—Belmont. A number of people are involved who are not usually active in Neighbourhood Watch or the progress association. They had their first meeting. They have decided that they are going to work together in an advisory capacity. About 20 people volunteered their services. They were going to work in a volunteer capacity as my advisory committee. The third-year social work student, Margo, finishes at the end of this month and the project is going to be completed by a fourth-year student. This, I think, is an exciting project, something that could be taken out into electorates throughout the country. Once again, I will provide more information on that to the parliament in the future. (Time expired)