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Healthy school communities grants going begging in Tasmania.

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Guy Barnett Liberal Senator for Tasmania

Healthy School Communities Grants Going Begging In Tasmania

Monday, January 24, 2005

Less than 13% of Tasmanian schools have applied for grants of $1500 aimed at promoting healthy eating among students, Senator Guy Barnett said today.

“The Australian Government notified all Tasmanian schools of the grant in August last year, and so far out of more than 280 schools only 35 have applied as of last week,” Senator Barnett said.

“In other words, there is more than $420,000 available for Tasmanian schools and only $52,500 has been taken up,” he said.

The $15 million Healthy Schools Community grant is part of the Prime Minister’s $116 million national package to combat childhood obesity, announced in Launceston last June.

“The $1500 grants are designed to promote school projects such as healthy school canteen menus, healthy cooking classes, school vegetable classes and awards for students,” he said.

Senator Barnett was speaking at the Healthy Lifestyle forum he organised to inform the public about the childhood obesity package and how to access funding The other parts of the package included $90 million for after school physical activity and an information campaign on childhood obesity due to start shortly.

As well, the forum outlined the introduction of a mandatory two hours a week of PE in schools required by the Australian Government and starting in all schools for the 2005 school year.

Marathon runner and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education Science and Training, Pat Farmer MP detailed elements of the childhood obesity package.

Senator Barnett said the mandatory PE policy was now all the more significant given the State Government’s recent backflip and decision to comply with the Howard Government’s mandatory PE in schools programme.

Senator Barnett gave each forum participant a pedometer to strap onto the

belt and which measures walking distances.

Forum Speakers included International Diabetes Institute Chief Executive and obesity expert Professor Paul Zimmet; Chieff Operations Officer for McDonalds Australia Peter Bush; University of Tasmania childhood obesity expert Dr Peter Rehor; University of Tasmania’s Centre for Human Movement Director and lecturer in health and fitness, Assoc’ Professor Ross Brooker; Vice President of Fitness Australia Dean Ewington; Canteens Tasmania Dietician Alison Ward and Northern High School Sports Association President and PE teacher Emily Stacey.

“Tasmania has one of the highest rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in Australia,” Senator Barnett said.

"Childhood obesity is one of the new epidemics of the 21st Century. It has doubled in the past 10 years, while 40% of children either play no sport or do not engage in any physical activity. More of them are eating fast food regularly," he said.

"This is a social war we must fight and win. Half the obese children in Australia will remain obese through to their adult life, and then they will become vulnerable to early onset of stroke, heart disease and loss of limbs and blindness through diabetes."