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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7516

Mr SLIPPER (FisherDeputy Speaker) (18:25): At the outset, I am indebted to my friend the honourable member for Dawson for reminding me that private members business commences once again at 6.30, so my contribution will necessarily be brief tonight.

It is important, as a compassionate society, and as a society that seeks equality for all of its citizens, that we do whatever we can to improve educational outcomes for all Australians, including those Australians who are Indigenous. As a nation, we do not have a lot to be proud of with respect to Indigenous affairs. Governments on both sides, historically, have sought to solve the problem through throwing money at the problem, rather than focusing on practical outcomes and practical solutions to very substantial problems. The former Howard government had a much better policy than prior governments and it sought to achieve practical reconciliation and sought to improve outcomes. As chairman of the then House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs, I was appalled to discover that Indigenous males live approximately 20 years less than non-Indigenous males. When one looks at Indigenous health, we see that so much more has to be achieved. Similarly with respect to education.

That is why I am very pleased to be able to support the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment Bill 2011, although with some reservations. This bill is a positive bill. It builds on the initiatives of the former Howard Liberal-National government. It essentially seeks to extend the funding for two Howard government programs. It is unfortunate though that the Labor Party has constantly indulged in reviews. Simply giving a one-year extension in funding for the second year in a row does not permit long-term planning and does not build on the very positive outcomes which these programs have successfully achieved in the years since they were implemented.

The Indigenous Youth Mobility Program along with the Sporting Chance Program endeavour to assist Indigenous young people. The Indigenous Youth Mobility Program helps young Indigenous people move away from home to gain the skills they need to get a job in their community or elsewhere. The Sporting Chance Program is an Australia government initiative that started operations in schools in 2007, with the objective of encouraging positive educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

It really is important to make sure that Indigenous Australians have appropriate educational opportunities, because as we all know the key to success in life is a good education. If someone is able to read, write and count, then the employment prognosis is infinitely better. It really is important also to recognise that many in the Indigenous community have not enjoyed the opportunities of others in the wider Australian community and that governments must therefore focus on doing whatever they can to build positive futures for Indigenous people. The way to a positive future for Indigenous people is by building up the prospects of children and future generations of Indigenous people. It is important they are given the support they need to receive a good education and receive the guidance they require to make them move into a rewarding career where they can become well-rounded and contributing members of the community generally, and become positive role models for other Indigenous Australians. It is probable that the challenges and difficulties faced by the Indigenous community may be addressed and their harshness reduced if the current generation of young people are able to build their abilities and educational opportunities in the future.

Debate adjourned.