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Thursday, 11 May 1989
Page: 2416

(Question No. 852)

Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Minister for Community Services and Health, upon notice, on 3 March 1989:

(1) In view of recent media reports, will the Minister reveal whether or not homeless children are the next potential target for the AIDS virus.

(2) As it has been implied by the Human Rights Commission that there is neglect at both Federal and State Government level of the plight of the young, what action is being taken to alleviate the problem.

(3) According to Federal Government research, how many Australian children between the ages of 12 and 17 are on the streets at night.

(4) How great, according to Federal Government research, is the problem of male and female prostitution in this age bracket.

(5) What action is being taken between State, Territory and Federal authorities to stamp out the problem of (a) homelessness, (b) drug taking, and (c) resultant prostitution.

(6) Is it true, as it has been claimed by young people on television recently, that young drug addicts are being turned away from rehabilitation centres simply because they are drug addicts.

(7) What Federal measures are in place in the Territories for the rehabilitation of homeless drug addicts, regardless of sex or age.

Senator Cook —The Minister for Community Services and Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Overseas studies, particularly in New York, indicate that the lifestyles of the homeless young place them at great risk of exposure to AIDS. While there is little information on the risk of exposure to AIDS among the homeless young in Australian cities, measures are being taken to co-ordinate agencies in Australia working with homeless youth. A national workshop of policy makers, youth workers and youth held in Sydney recently, reviewed current programs and established mechanisms for evaluation, co-ordination and development of AIDS education and services.

The AIDS Working Group of the Council of Social Welfare Administrators has recently completed a detailed examination of programs and policies required for youth as clients of social welfare departments. Their report was endorsed by the Council of Social Welfare Ministers at Burnie on 20 March 1989.

(2) Although the provision of health and welfare services, including for the young, is primarily a State responsibility, the Commonwealth provides funds to State/Territory Governments through a number of major programs designed to alleviate homelessness, AIDS and drug abuse. These include:

Supported Accommodation Assistance Program: From 1989-90, support for homeless people over the next three years will be increased by $40 million bringing the total Federal Government support to $220 million over the next three years. The new Program will provide a wider range of assistance to those in need, by providing better access to training, employment assistance and other Government services and place greater emphasis on medium and long term accommodation in the mix of accommodation services available;

AIDS Program: Through the Inter-Governmental Committee on AIDS (IGCA) formed in 1987, youth networks are being expanded and drawn upon to combat high risk activity. Many educational and support programs are now well established including crucial outreach programs. These include streetwork, mobile clinics and needle and syringe exchange programs;

National Campaign Against Drug Abuse: Young people have been identified as a key target group under the Campaign. Under the NCADA cost-shared program, funds are provided to the States and Territories for treatment, rehabilitation and counselling services as well as for drug prevention education programs. At the national level, during the next triennium of the NCADA there will be campaigns directed at young people targeting alcohol and heroin. A comprehensive national statement on school based drug education curricula development and implementation will also be developed.

Following receipt of the Report of the National Inquiry into Homeless Children by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (Burdekin Report)-Our Homeless Children, Federal and State Governments have established a joint working party to address the problem associated with youth homelessness.

The working party will assess the Report and report back to a special meeting of Welfare Ministers in June 1989.

(3) Reliable estimates of the number of children on the streets at night are not available. There are an unknown number of young people who, for a variety of reasons, do not use available accommodation services.

(4) Information is not available on the number of homeless young people resorting to prostitution. Outreach programs directed towards young male and female prostitutes are achieving promising results.

(5) See (2).

(6) Drug treatment and rehabilitation services are administered by the States and Territories.

(7) Establishment of rehabilitation centres for drug addicts in the Territories is a matter for the Northern Territory Government or the Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories in the Australian Capital Territory.