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Thursday, 29 May 2008
Page: 3835

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) (3:45 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

In the first sitting week of this parliament, the Rudd government apologised to Indigenous Australians for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on our fellow Australians. At the time, the Prime Minister made the point that this is not the end of the government’s commitment, but the start. If Australia is to be truly reconciled there must first be an acknowledgement of past wrongs, but this must be followed up with actions to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Shortly after the national apology, I was proud to introduce amendments to the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 which appropriated funding for the first of our election commitments to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous outcomes—an initiative to provide an additional 200 teachers in the Northern Territory.

Today, during Reconciliation Week, I introduce further amendments to the act to appropriate funding for another two initiatives aimed at closing the gap.

The primary purpose of this bill is to amend the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 by appropriating additional funding of $8.353 million in the 2008 calendar year to improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students. This amount, when indexed under the provisions of the act, will amount to $9.050 million in 2008 prices and is part of an $85.3 million package over four years. The remaining funding for 2009 and beyond will be appropriated through subsequent legislation.

This funding will be used for the expansion of intensive literacy and numeracy programs for Indigenous students, professional development support to assist teachers to develop individual learning plans for their Indigenous students and the provision of three new boarding college facilities for Indigenous secondary school students in the Northern Territory.

In 2006, a 13 to 32 per cent gap existed between the proportion of Indigenous students who achieve years 3, 5 and 7 reading, writing and numeracy benchmarks and the proportion of all students who achieve the same benchmarks.

The Australian government places great importance on achieving better educational outcomes for Indigenous students and has made a commitment to assist education providers to halve the literacy and numeracy achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students through the $56.4 million Building Strong Foundations program.

This program will assist education providers to ascertain which intensive literacy and numeracy programs are demonstrating the best results with Indigenous students so that what is working in one school can be tried in other schools.

Funds will be used to establish an evidence base around innovative literacy and numeracy projects which will contribute to a national menu of best practice. Education providers will be able to choose programs from this menu to suit the needs of their systems, schools or Indigenous students and integrate them into their teaching. With the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students greatest in numeracy, this will be an early focus of the program.

The program will also provide teachers with extra materials and support to assist them to prepare and maintain individual learning plans for every Indigenous student for each year of schooling up to year 10.

This measure will complement the National Action Plan on Literacy and Numeracy with resources to assist education providers to halve the gap in literacy and numeracy outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students over the next decade.

The second measure this bill provides for is the government’s commitment to provide additional funding of $28.9 million over four years to construct and operate three new secondary boarding colleges in the Northern Territory. These facilities are expected to cater for 152 Indigenous students from remote areas.

The proportion of young Indigenous people living in remote areas who reach year 12 is approximately half that of their metropolitan peers, and only one in 10 actually completes year 12. Approximately one in four 15- to 19-year-old Indigenous people lives in a remote area.

An additional capital contribution of $15 million will be provided from the Indigenous Land Corporation which is committed to establishing student hostels to enable Indigenous young people from remote areas to obtain secondary school education.

Agreement on the siting of boarding facilities and their construction will be negotiated with Indigenous communities and their representatives, the Indigenous Land Corporation and Northern Territory education providers. Management options for these facilities will be developed in consultation with relevant education providers, local communities, Aboriginal Hostels Ltd and other interested parties.

The increased funding for this program will provide support for Indigenous young people to relocate from remote and regional areas to access high standards of education, training and employment opportunities not otherwise available to them.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Ian Macfarlane) adjourned.