Mr COULTON (Parkes–The Nationals Chief Whip) (12:30): I rise today to speak about the issue of one of the communities in my electorate: the village of Toomelah. Toomelah has been in the national press this week again. I wanted to take this opportunity to address the House and express my opinion and concerns as to what is happening in the Toomelah community. It is important to note something of the history of Toomelah to properly understand the issues that Toomelah is confronting at the moment. Toomelah is not a village or a town as such; it is a continuation from what was originally a mission station. There are no individual blocks of land, no individual ownership. Toomelah is one land title. That is part of the reason that some of the issues that are confronting that community are happening, that there is actually no individual ownership of any property.
The village of Toomelah hit the headlines some 25 years ago when Marcus Einfeld conducted the inquiry into what was happening there. It was interesting to note that the current Governor-General was part of that inquiry in a previous role that she had. Last year after the floods in the Macintyre River affected the Toomelah community, the Governor-General accompanied me on an inspection, and I could tell she was quite distressed that in 25 years none of the issues that had been identified have been addressed. I think that the time for Toomelah to be bought out of the wretchedness and squalor in which it has found itself is long overdue. I acknowledge that in the past people with the best of intentions have worked very hard to rectify the issues surrounding that community. I acknowledge now that as the member it now falls on my shoulders, partly with other colleagues, to address this. There are serious issues that need to be addressed.
While the CDEP was by far from a perfect scheme as far as employment goes, while it was in Toomelah it did provide some employment to that community, but certainly it did not lead on, as it was designed, to more permanent employment. There does need to be employment but there is employment in surrounding areas and I think we need to encourage the residents of that village to partake in genuine employment-proper jobs. Creating jobs for the sake of creating jobs has certainly not worked in the past, and, with mentoring and encouragement, we are going to have to help those people into regular and employment. I acknowledge the work of people like Sid Craigie, who over the last couple of years has on an individual basis helped people into employment. But we need to acknowledge that it is a difficult process that requires ownership and mentoring and keeping on with this problem. I think that the New South Wales government now are looking at the child abuse issues. They are looking at issues with the school and the fact that the attendance rate is below 50 per cent. I believe that there will be measures taken to address these issues.
I met with the minister’s office last night to offer my support for whatever position this government takes. I am more than happy to play my part into coming to a solution for the people of Toomelah. I encourage the minister-and I said so to her adviser last night-to work in cooperation with the state government and Moree Plains Shire Council in a united front so that we chart a course of action and stick to that course of action until, indeed, we can start to turn around the situation, because a child that is born into poverty has no choice into where they are born. In the year 2012, a child should be entitled to go to bed in safety, not hungry and not frightened. Indeed, that is not the case today in Toomelah.