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Tuesday, 24 June 2003
Page: 17375


Ms PANOPOULOS (9:05 PM) —According to a survey published a few weeks ago, VCE graduates in my electorate are above the state average in gaining employment and show no need for a city education to stay ahead in today's hectic job market. Take, for example, Ms Jenny Wood from Wodonga High School, who decided that studying at her local Wodonga TAFE was a much more sensible idea than move to the city. It has given her the opportunity to complete a traineeship in the area, helping her learning immensely, and she has no regrets in the career pathway she has chosen.

Students in the north-east are not only ahead of the norm in employment, apprenticeships and traineeship enrolment but the unemployment rate is below that of other Victorian regions. Compared to the rest of the state, the north-east's transition into the world of work is significantly higher. To name just two of the exceptional schools in my electorate that prove that this is the case, year 12 students from Rutherglen High School topped the state's employment list with 27 out of 44 graduates securing work; and 28 out of 49 students from Wangaratta's Ovens College found employment after completing their VCE studies. In the north-east of Victoria only one in 20 who finished school in 2002 was still seeking a job compared to the state average of one in 16.

Another case in which a rural education has met and bettered the state standard is that of Mr Tim Lamb. After completing his studies at the same school as Ms Wood, he chose to continue on to tertiary education at La Trobe University's Wodonga campus and even went so far as to say: `The facilities and the new library are first class, and I do not feel disadvantaged at all. There are fewer people and you do not have the city feel, but you get better access to lecturers and tutors—and that is a big advantage.'

Not only are the graduates proving that education is of an extremely high standard in the north-east of Victoria but a local youngster, Louise Dunster from Benalla, was chosen as one of only 50 young people to be a member of the National Youth Round Table last year, proving that you do not need a city education to be successful. If it is not enough to convince the House that a rural education is not a substandard level and deserves just as much attention as education in schools in Melbourne, then I will give one last example of a student who leapt with ease from school into a job at the end of 2002. Mr Brendan Johnson, also from Wodonga High School, decided that full-time work would be his best option. He landed himself a job at a nearby bank almost immediately upon completing his studies. All of the people I have chosen to speak about tonight have proven the determination, initiative and ability of students in north-east Victoria and their ability to rise above the standards set for them and to finish ahead of others.

I would also like to mention Jess Sullivan, another young Australian from my electorate of Indi. Jess Sullivan wrote the speech I just read out, and I am extremely proud of her. She is the epitome of what initiative is in the north-east of Victoria. She is a young girl who, without telling her parents or her school, ended up on the doorstep of my office. She asked for a week's work experience. I was in Canberra at the time and I got a phone call from a staff member who told me about this. I said, `If you reckon she's all right and you can work with her for a week, take her on'—so they did.

During the week, another idea emanated from my office: why not give Jess the opportunity to write a speech? Again, I gave in to my staff's demands and said, `Why not?' The speech that was drafted was extraordinary. Here is a young girl, living very close to Wangaratta who, in spite of all the odds and in spite of what we say about young people not caring about politics and current affairs, has made an effort. I am very proud that, in a very small way, I have been able to introduce her into this House, to show her the workings of this parliament and to give her an opportunity to experience what all of us on this side of the House believe—that is, no matter where you come from, no matter who your parents are and no matter what your educational background is, if you have the will, the desire and the passion, you can make a significant contribution to this wonderful nation of ours.