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Thursday, 30 September 1999
Page: 9303


Senator FERRIS (5:56 PM) —I have listened with great interest this afternoon to the debate on indigenous education; and, in the few minutes that I have, there is nothing more timely than to speak about a clipping from today's Adelaide Advertiser . I am happy to report that it is on page 3. It is a photograph of a very optimistic young indigenous woman and it says `Role model with a vision for her people'. This is Elsie Fisher, an 18-year-old Aboriginal woman in year 12 at the Kaurna Plains school in Adelaide. Just today, Elsie was named as the South Australian Student of the Year. She is strongly involved in youth indigenous issues and very committed to changing attitudes towards indigenous people. She says, in some very positive quotes in this story, `I am very proud to be a role model for the younger Aboriginal kids. I want to inspire my peers and highlight the achievements of young indigenous people to help break down the stereotypes that exist in the broader community.' Her award is part of a South Australian competition run by Exodus Youth Services, recognising the contribution of all students and focusing particularly on those who have achieved a personal best.

Who better to personify and reflect this government's policy towards indigenous education? She is one of the great success stories that are now becoming apparent throughout Australia, because we have changed the way governments approach indigenous education. We have appropriately and correctly targeted literacy, numeracy and school attendance as the foundations for closing the gap between indigenous educational outcomes and those of the wider community.

I have held roundtables with indigenous women in a number of regional centres in South Australia and I have spoken of them in this place before. One of the themes that has run through each one of those roundtables is the desire of all indigenous women to provide their children—their sons and their daughters, and sometimes their grandchildren—with greater opportunities for education than they themselves had, more effectively targeted and better delivered.

Perhaps one of the most telling quotes that I have heard in this place on this issue over the past few weeks came from Aden Ridgeway when he talked about breaking the self-defeating cycle of dependency by way of our national indigenous literacy and numeracy strategy. He reflected a comment made by Senator Herron when he said, `Quality education for indigenous Australians is a crucial step towards empowering indigenous people.'

Interestingly enough, Noel Pearson—and I commend him for this—just two weeks ago summed up the importance of this issue when he said, `The survival of indigenous culture and knowledge in the long term is going to depend on one thing—literacy'—and this is reflected in our government's strategies.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bartlett) —Order! It being 6 p.m., the time for consideration of general business has expired.