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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 368


Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (19:30): Tonight, I want to take this opportunity to welcome back all students and staff in my electorate to the 2017 school year, and I want to wish them all a very productive and successful year ahead. In my electorate of Calwell I have about 60 schools—primary and secondary. They are a fair mix of government and non-government schools, and they are doing a great job in meeting the educational and welfare needs of our students and providing a diversity of choice for students and their families.

Schools in Calwell cater to a culturally and socio-economically diverse community, and I am very proud of each and every one of them and the work that they do for our local communities. I am particularly proud of my local school communities who are facing significant issues and additional challenges associated with the influx of refugees settling in Calwell at the moment. The Good Samaritan Catholic Primary School in Roxburgh Park and Meadows Primary School in Broadmeadows, in particular, have a high number of enrolments of refugee children.

These schools go above and beyond their call of duty to create a safe learning environment for the children who have come to Australia directly from war zones in Syria and Iraq. These children are severely traumatized. Their young eyes have seen things that other children in the same classroom cannot possibly ever imagine and nor should they. I am always amazed by the compassion shown by the teachers and the school community as a whole in nurturing and guiding these vulnerable students through the emotional trauma and the difficulties posed by language barriers that affect their literacy and numeracy skills and overall learning.

Roxburgh College is a fantastic government secondary school with a high migrant and refugee student population. The challenges faced by students there have instilled in its principal, Mr Fernando Ianni, a passion and a determination to support and empower every student to successfully complete their education journey. Under the school's vision statement—'With mutual respect, we learn and achieve'—Principal Ianni has developed and fostered a sense of collective responsibility for achieving success in the Roxburgh College community. His dedication led to him being nominated for a 2016 education award by the Victorian state government in the category of Outstanding Secondary Principal. Described by his peers as a visionary, Fernando has inspired and implemented numerous initiatives to overcome disadvantage in Melbourne's outer north. From refugee support groups to vocational programs for disengaged youths, Fernando Ianni has an absolute commitment to equity and inclusion. I want to congratulate Fernando on his nomination and his school community for continually striving for better solutions and outcomes for our local young people.

The admirable efforts of my teachers and their commitment are reflected in my schools' achievements, especially in our VCE results. I want to congratulate Sirius College in Broadmeadows, a school that is a continuous success story at VCE level, and 2016 was no exception. Fourteen students achieved an ATAR score of above 95, with student Ertugrul Erciyas topping the list with an ATAR of 99.5. In addition, students Rami Dennaoui and Harun Ergi received perfect study scores of 50 for further maths and computing in informatics. At St Mary's Coptic Orthodox College in Coolaroo, Shady Elyas was named dux with an ATAR score of 99.6, which is a phenomenal achievement. At Gladstone Park Secondary College, 17 students received ATARs above 90, with twin brothers Okan and Volkan Ozer topping the list. Okan was dux with an ATAR score of 98.7 and his brother Volkan received an ATAR of 94.5.

Probably the most high-profile VCE student of 2016 was 19-year-old Saad Al-Kassab, a student at Catholic Regional College in Sydenham, who was the 2016 dux with an ATAR score of 96.6. Saad is a Syrian refugee who arrived in Australia just two years ago, and at that time he could not speak English. He told me himself when I met him just before Christmas he learnt English by watching question time. Saad attributes his success at VCE to the compassionate community of Catholic Regional College, Sydenham, and their investment in their students, especially his specialist maths teacher, Adrian Rajapakse, and his English teacher, Libby Krepp.

Education is a priority for me as the federal member for Calwell and, of course, it is a priority for Labor because we believe that getting a great education is the ticket to a lifetime of opportunity. I want to congratulate all my schools and wish them all the best in this year.