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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6812

Ms PRICE (Durack) (12:05): Let us hope I can now lower the tone in the chamber.

Opposition members interjecting

Ms PRICE: Thank you. Maybe I will improve it; maybe I will lower it, but let's hope I can get some attention. My question is to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and it relates to how the Abbott government is working to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance rates. But first I would like to provide some context to this, particularly with respect to my electorate of Durack.

As the parliamentary secretary and I know, to get ahead in life children and young adults need to build a strong foundation through our education system. To achieve this, however, we must first get children and young adults to school. The Durack electorate has the third highest proportion of Indigenous students. So, ensuring the education gap is significantly reduced in the short term, and rates of attendance are equal in the long term, is a key priority of mine.

Unfortunately, in Durack Indigenous students attending school is not the norm; it is the rarity. Often this is due to dysfunction in students' home lives. Lack of structure and discipline leads to a high prevalence of truancy. In Fitzroy, Derby and Wiluna, in particular, a significantly higher level of truancy has already been identified by this government and the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, which highlights non-attendance cycles in schools. This authority identified that the average annual attendance rates of students attending Fitzroy Valley District High School between 2008 and 2013 was only 62 per cent. This rate was marginally better at the Derby District High School, with 69 per cent, and there was 65 per cent attendance at the Wiluna Remote Community School.

What these schools have in common is that they are all remote and have large Indigenous populations, which are often transient. However, this non-attendance cycle was also identified at the Carnarvon Community College—a school which is located in a much higher regional hub—which had an attendance rate of 68 per cent in 2012. I am also saddened that the Roebourne District High School in the Pilbara region had one of the worst attendance rates in the country, of 53 per cent in the same year. This government and the wider Australian community have an expectation that every child has access to, and attends, school every day. But we need to work collaboratively to achieve this.

Now, I do have some good news. Despite these concerning statistics, I am pleased to say that in Broome, which is a key regional centre in Durack, with a high number of Indigenous students, there are many success stories in the education sphere. I have previously acknowledged the success of the Broome Senior High School and its principal Saeed Amin and his staff, whose hard work and dedication, saw this school become the WA School of the Year in the year 2012. In the same year, the school had a 100 per cent success rate for university offers for those students who were studying university courses.

Another success story is the local TAFE in the Kimberley, which is called the Kimberley Training Institute or KTI. KTI is the leading vocational education and training provider in the Kimberley region, which runs courses out of Broome and Kununurra. It aims to provide the skills and knowledge students need to enhance their employment opportunities. The fantastic work of KTI was recognised last year, when it received two major accolades at the WA training awards. Visual arts lecturer Jacky Cheng was awarded Best Trainer in Western Australia, while the KTI was awarded Best Large Training Provider. I commend all staff and students for this significant achievement.

It is therefore clear that all students in Durack, no matter their age, race or social status, have the ability to access high-quality education through our schools and service providers. We just need to get these kids to school. This leads me to my question: can the parliamentary secretary please outline the government's approach for improving Indigenous attendance rates at schools across Australia and, in particular, in regional and remote areas?