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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7485


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (16:17): I speak in support of the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment Bill 2011. Nothing defines the difference between the coalition and Labor more than their approaches to education. We have doubled the funding for education in this four-year period, while those opposite failed in this regard for so long. We have Closing the Gap targets in relation to Indigenous education, and we have an aspiration that, by 2018, another 100,000 Indigenous young people and older people will be in employment. We know that Treasury says that in the next two years we will need another 500,000 jobs in the Australian economy to keep our economy strong, to sustain the growth, to keep the employment going and to make sure our prosperity into the future matches what has happened in the past. Those opposite did not just disinvest in health, neglect infrastructure and fail in health and hospital outcomes but they also failed so much in terms of education and Indigenous issues. It was not just that they did not say sorry; they did not put the money towards Indigenous targets and programs. The commitment that we have is to close the gap, not just in jobs and health but in education as well.

We are delivering real and measurable outcomes in this regard. We have supported 168 Indigenous businesses or community projects Australia wide and achieved over 43,000 job or training placements for Indigenous Australians. We have a commitment under our Indigenous Employment Program of $650 million to support businesses and community projects to make sure Indigenous job seekers get work. The precursor to getting a job is a good education, so it is absolutely vital that we do this. I have seen this locally in my electorate and I have seen it across my home state of Queensland. We are supporting Indigenous students from remote areas to access places in very high-performing schools such as Ipswich Grammar School and Ipswich Girls Grammar School. I have spoken to a number of the Indigenous students from places in Far North Queensland who are boarding at the grammar schools, where they are getting the best quality education possible in very high-performing schools. In particular, we are providing $20 million to the Australian Indigenous Education Fund, run by a private group of business people who want to make a difference in the lives of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. By the way, they are committed to matching the government's contribution by raising another $20 million through business. Over the next 10 years this fund, of $40 million, will send 2,000 talented, young Indigenous students to very high-performing secondary schools, many of them in the Blair electorate—great schools such as Ipswich Grammar School and Ipswich Girls Grammar School.

The legislation that is before the chamber today amends the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act to extend the current quadrennium to incorporate the 2013 calendar year. It is about amending the appropriation of that legislation to formalise previous decisions the government has made, including, as I said, an election commitment to increase support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from remote communities to access schools both in my electorate and across the country.

This amending legislation will provide certainty until the government has had the opportunity to look at, consider and act upon the finding, due in 2011, by Professor Gonski, of the review of funding for schooling. We want to determine the funding. Hopefully, we will make some significant changes, because everyone who works in the sector knows that the SES model has not delivered the most just and fair outcome possible. Recently, I was in Ipswich speaking to some members from the Independent Education Union. They know that in private schools in my electorate the best outcomes have not been achieved. Recently, I was speaking to a number of public school teachers in my electorate—who were attending a Queensland Teachers Union conference there—from schools such as Minden State School, Ipswich Special School and Ipswich West Special School to find out what they thought. The legislation before us is about extending the funding until such time as the decision of the Gonski review is handed down and we can then act upon it.

I cannot let the member for Sturt get by without saying something about what he said in relation to some of their funding. There is a huge difference between us and them in terms of education. I accept that there is a bipartisan commitment to the targets with respect to closing the gap—halving the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for Indigenous children within a decade and halving the gap for Indigenous students in year 12 attainment, or equivalent attainment, by 2020. I accept that those opposite have said that they want to agree to this. How we get there is another story. Those opposite do not think we are doing the right thing in that regard. We are backing up our commitment to closing the gap by not just putting initiatives or programs in place but also actually backing up with real money, real dollars. Yet those opposite seem to whinge, carry on and carp at education programs that we have brought in, when they know very well from visiting schools in their electorate that they are happy.

The member for Sturt waxed on about our computers in schools program, saying, 'You've only delivered 434,000 computers in local schools.' Go to schools like Bundamba State Secondary College, which has a very high number of Indigenous students and tell the students and the school administration that the computers in schools program is not successful and not good for their school. Go and tell them that. Go to Bremer State High School, which has a very high component of Indigenous students. Currently, that school has about 1,500 students. Next year, there will be 1,600 students. Go and tell them that that program is not appropriate and it is not good for their education outcome.

The other side went to an election last year proposing to abolish the computers in schools program and the trade training centres. All the time they claim that they are going to achieve good outcomes for education should they get on the treasury bench, but they are always critical of what we are doing. In this budget and in previous budgets and through this legislation here, we are benefiting not just non-Indigenous students but Indigenous students through things such as trade training centres. The Ipswich Trade Training Centre has both the Ipswich Girls Grammar School and the Ipswich Grammar School, where those Indigenous students are boarding under the programs covered by the legislation here. They attend the Ipswich Trade Training Centre, located at St Edmund's College, a Catholic school. There is a partnership of three schools. The Indigenous students boarding at those schools enjoy the benefit of the Ipswich Trade Training Centre.

And we have another one coming to my electorate: the Ipswich region trade training centre. It is going to be located at the Ipswich State High School, another school with a very high number of Indigenous students. Again they will benefit, not just from the BER program we put in for the Japanese immersion centre we have already located at that school but from the trade training centre. About 40 per cent of the kids who go to Ipswich State High School end up with trades. There are so many Indigenous students at that school. You only have to go to the assembly to realise that. But those opposite continue to oppose these initiatives, all of which would help not just non-Indigenous students but Indigenous students in my electorate.

And then we get to the BER funding—the multipurpose halls and libraries, all of which help non-Indigenous students and Indigenous students. The Ipswich-Logan corridor in South-East Queensland—I represent most of Ipswich—has a very high number of Indigenous students in its schools and Indigenous people in the local community, the jobs and the businesses across the area. Kambu Medical Centre, in my area, has a huge number of patients. It is a great Indigenous medical centre, well funded by the federal and state governments. I was there just last week talking about it.

It is not just in health and not just in jobs but in education that we are benefiting Indigenous students. The initiatives here are very important because the legislation talks about school programs, early childhood programs, vocational education programs and tertiary programs. The background to this legislation in terms of the programs is extremely important. The member for Sturt was talking about a number of programs which are important, and I think it is worth mentioning them as well. They are really important programs under this legislation. Being funded are things like the Indigenous education consultative bodies and the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program, which funds scholarships, boarding, tuition, leadership development and other educational costs for selected secondary and tertiary students aged to 25 attending participating schools—such as Ipswich Girls Grammar School and Ipswich Grammar School—and universities. Most of those young people in Ipswich come, as I said, from Far North Queensland. The Indigenous Youth Mobility Program assists young people with accommodation and other support to facilitate their take-up of apprenticeships, VET or university in 16 major centres nationally. You can see the benefit of those sorts of programs in South-East Queensland, with great TAFE institutions like the Bremer Institute of TAFE, located in the western corridor from Brisbane through to Ipswich as well. The objective of the Sporting Chance Program is to encourage improved educational outcomes for Indigenous students, boys and girls, using sport and recreation. That is so important.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we handed down the report Doing time—time for doing: Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system in the House of Representatives. As chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs I know we saw the value as we went around the countryside. There were 110 submissions and about 18 public hearings, including a roundtable at Redfern. We saw the benefit of Indigenous sporting programs. We saw the benefit of schools connecting to local Indigenous communities. We saw the benefit of mentors. We saw the benefit of real recognition of Aboriginal communities, the importance of cultural awareness and the importance of Indigenous language.

Programs such as these on the ground can make a difference in the lives of young people, making sure that they stay at school, do not engage in truancy and get an education. Getting an education is not just important to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, violence, domestic abuse and incarceration but important for financial security as well. This legislation is really important because it is—

Mr Wyatt: Madam Deputy Speaker, under standing order 66A, I want to acknowledge the comments that the member is making. Can I ask him what the educational attainment levels are, what the outcomes are and what the employment opportunities are, given what he has been expanding upon?

Mr NEUMANN: No, I do not have to take the question.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Correct.

Mr NEUMANN: Why doesn't he put that on notice if he is happy to do so. If I am making a speech—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you. The member for Blair will continue.

Mr NEUMANN: If the member wants to put that question to the minister, he may do so—or ask a more important, relevant and sensible question than he asked in question time today. As to this particular legislation, I think it is important to note that what we have said in relation to the Gonski review, and what we have said to Indigenous students and to the private school community and the public school community, is that we in this government believe strongly that the arguments in relation to private versus public education are well and truly gone. We believe that parents have the right to send their children to whatever school they want and that kids have the right to go to a good public school as well. The public school system is the backbone of education. That is why so many students go to a state school, as we call them in Queensland, at primary school level, often then going on to schools such as St Edmund's College or Ipswich Grammar School or Ipswich Girls' Grammar School for seniors. But it is really important to make sure that we fund the system appropriately and well.

I have said before that this legislation gets us through to looking at the review and deciding how we are going to take funding in the future. But, as I have also said before, the previous government put in about $32.9 billion over the previous four years of their government. That was their commitment. That sounds like a lot of money, but we made a greater commitment to education: we put in $64.9 billion in funding for government and non-government schools over 2009 to 2012.

That is very important. There are also the national partnerships which assist not just Indigenous but also non-Indigenous students. We can see that. I was recently at Leichardt State School, a school in what we used to call a working-class area in my electorate, rebuilt through the State Schools of Tomorrow program and the state government's work in that school, and rebuilt, through the BER funding, with a new multipurpose hall and new library—a national partnership school which has made a huge difference. If you go there you will see that the connectivity between the local Indigenous community and the school is very strong—really strong. Lee Gerchow, the principal, is doing a fantastic job. And that is the difference that good funding for Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students can make in an area where there is a high Indigenous population. You can see that. We have seen the NAPLAN results. We have seen the improvements in attendance at that school. We have seen the improvements in literacy and numeracy. I support this legislation because it will make a big difference in the lives of the schools in my community. (Time expired)