LIFE EDUCATION - AGFEST
Mr FINCH - I want today to mention Agfest, with an aside that the member for Western Tiers, no doubt with the help of others, did a terrific job to set up the venue for us to meet the public and to promote the Legislative Council to thousands and thousands of people. Well, hundreds maybe.
It was one of the features at Agfest that I want to talk about today. The Life Education van came to Tasmania to engage with the Tasmanian community, to talk to educators, mums and dads, and to kids, about their work. It reminded me that for about three years some 15 years ago I spent a lot of time helping to promote that idea in the community. Life Education Australia is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary and is the nation's largest not-for-profit provider of preventative drug education in schools. It was initiated in Sydney by the Reverend Ted Nofts, no doubt a name familiar to most of you, and that was in 1979. Subsequently, it has become a national body with representation around the country and there is a long list of countries in which it is represented, including South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Life Education is looking to extend its operation again in Tasmania, looking again for support from the Tasmanian community and from the State Government. As a non-profit organisation, Life Education provides a positive, preventative drug and health education program which helps to motivate, encourage and empower young people to make smart life choices for a healthy future, free from the harms associated with drug misuse. It employs lateral thinking and a commonsense approach to drug education. One of the highlights in the program to teach kids was Bob Newhart's skit about the introduction of tobacco to England by Sir Walter Raleigh. Some of you might have heard that. The more Sir Walter Raleigh explained the use of tobacco to Elizabeth l, the more ludicrous it became. You roll up dried tobacco leaves in paper and then you put it in your mouth, then what do you do with it? Well, you set a light to it. You what? You set a light to it. Then what do you do? Well, you inhale the smoke. Then what do you do? Then you cough a little bit. It was interesting to use that illustration and Life Education endeavours to make other drug use look just as ludicrous. It holds the philosophy that prevention is better than cure and it encourages the respect for uniqueness of each individual. That was a message I really appreciated from Life Education - each child is unique. It is used extensively to complement schools drug and health program, it is based on national and international research together with advice from government and professional bodies and it is guided by the principles for school drug education 2004.
I want to give some of the figures in respect of drug use in Tasmania. These are from the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. Drinking stats for 14 years and older in Tasmania - 40.5 per cent weekly; smoking daily - 22.7 per cent, and that is the second highest in Australia; 14- to 19-year-olds daily smoking - 8.4 per cent, the third highest in Australia; 14 years and over with cannabis use in the last 12 months - 10.8 per cent, the second highest in Australia; 14- to 22-year-olds, cannabis use in the last 12 months - 18.3 per cent, the fourth highest in Australia. As you can see Madam President, that it is not a pretty picture in respect of our young people and their drug use.
The reason I bring up this painful topic is that there is some hope with Life Education. It was here before, there were three vans working in our community and from your body language, Madam President, you remember the program. It worked in our community by teachers funded by the State Government, and as happens, funding was withdrawn, the buses were converted to offices and our children were then not supported during their crucial years of receiving messages about drug use and the need for avoidance.
I spoke this morning to the person who drove the project in Tasmania, Heather Lachlan, and it was interesting to note how thrilled she was at the thought that this idea may be rejuvenated. She made the point that when the buses were sold, or when the program was shut down, they put the money into a foundation and she is going to check to see where that money is and whether that can go towards this reinvigoration. I salute the Victorian branch of Life Education for looking to extend into Tasmania and hope that once again we can see Harold the Giraffe enthralling the kids of Tasmania and teaching them those good messages about drug use.