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School sport: a key role in tackling obesity.

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A $90 million after hours physical activity program in schools will provide a significant boost to the health of Australian children, the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Rod Kemp said today.

Senator Kemp said inclusion of the Active After-school Communities program as part of 'Building a Healthy, Active Australia' announced by the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard in Launceston today, was the culmination of extensive work carried out by the Australian Sports Commission over the past 12 months.

'Rates of childhood obesity in Australia have increased dramatically over the past decade, children have become increasingly less physically active and their motor skill competencies have declined,' Senator Kemp said.

'It is clear that the answer to this problem is to have physical activity placed back in the school setting as an essential and integral component of child development.'

'The out of school hours time slot of 3.00pm - 5.30pm does provide a real opportunity to provide sport and physical activity to primary school-aged children.'

'With most school facilities under-utilised during these hours children can stay within their secure school environment to participate in supervised sport activities.'

Senator Kemp said that for the past twelve months, the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) has been working closely with state and territory governments in a series of pilot studies supported by the Australian Council of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER).

The ASC had partnered with key stakeholders in NSW, Victoria, Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia to pilot alternative models of out of school hours sport programs.

Cricket Australia, Netball Australia and the AFL have already offered to play an active part in the development and running of the various activities of the program, and it is

expected they will be joined by other sporting codes.

LAUNCESTON 29 June 2004

Media contact: Richard Wise, 02 6277 7350 or 0438 204 554