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Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Page: 4

Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) (9:17 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The government is committed to achieving the best education outcomes for male and female school students throughout Australia.

The House of Representatives inquiry into the education of boys of June 2003, Boys: getting it right,examined the problems particular to the education of boys.

That report noted that boys are not achieving as well as girls across a broad spectrum of measures of educational attainment.

The report identified significant public concern about the decline in the number of male teachers in schools, in particular in primary schools, in Australia, and expressed support for more men in schools.

The figures speak for themselves.

In 2003, only 20.9 per cent of primary teaching staff in Australia were men.

The problem is only getting worse.

In 2003, males constituted 26.5 per cent of the 37,530 domestic students enrolled in initial teaching courses specifically for primary and secondary teaching in Australia.

In 2003, males were only 18.8 per cent of domestic students training to become primary school teachers.

The government's Sex Discrimination Amendment (Teaching Profession) Bill will assist in addressing the problem by amending the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to provide that a person may offer scholarships for persons of a particular gender in respect of participation in a teaching course.

The section will only apply if the purpose of doing so is to redress a gender imbalance in teaching—that is, an imbalance in the ratio of male to female teachers in schools in Australia, or in a category of schools or in a particular school.

The bill means that educational authorities and others can offer scholarships to encourage male teachers into the profession in a manner consistent with the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

The bill is drafted in gender neutral language which means that the amendments would allow discrimination in favour of females if a gender imbalance in favour of males were to emerge generally or in a region or sector.

The government's acknowledgment of the importance of both men and women in teaching in our society, and the government's commitment to encouraging men into the profession, will help change people's perceptions about the role of men in the profession in the future.

Students throughout Australia will benefit from having both male and female role models in the teaching profession.

This bill is a vital measure in addressing the existing gender imbalance in the profession.

It complements the government's other major strategies for addressing the particular challenge of increasing education outcomes for boys, including:

Boys' education is a priority area for the $159.2 million Australian Government Quality Teacher Program; and

The provision of $27 million over six years to 2008 for boys' education, including over $19 million for the Success for Boys initiative, through which grants will be provided to 1,600 schools to implement projects focusing particularly on opportunities for boys to benefit from positive male role models, around $8 million already committed for initiatives such as the Boys' Education Lighthouse Schools (BELS) initiative and research into significant areas of education relevant to boys' education.

I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Ms Roxon) adjourned.