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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7509


Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (17:55): I welcome the opportunity to speak to the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment Bill. Can I begin by acknowledging that we are celebrating NAIDOC Week this week, between 3 and 10 July—a week that has been recognised by Indigenous people in this country for almost 70 years. It started off with William Cooper back in the 1930s, when he formed the Australian Aborigines League, and at the time there was even a call for Indigenous people to b e represented in this place. What was originally considered to be a day of mourning has now become a week of celebration for Indigenous people across the country, and I certainly wish them well in the celebrations of this week because I know that, right across the country, in many, many communities, there are individual events taking place.

The purpose of this bill is to extend funding for existing programs under the Indigenous education targeted assistance for a further year and to reallocate some funds to other programs and initiatives. The Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment Bill 2011 aligns funding so that the review of funding for schooling, due to report in 2011, can be considered and any changes implemented with adequate planning and consultation. In 2007 the Council of Australian Governments agreed to six targets for closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, including in relation to educational achievement. Some of those targets were to halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for Indigenous children within a decade, and to halve the gap for Indigenous students in year 12 attainment rates by the year 2020. These targets were formalised in the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (Closing the Gap) agreed by COAG in October 2008. The bill aims to extend the funding for the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 to incorporate the 2013 calendar year to line up with the Schools Assistance Act 2008, and timing of the review of funding for schooling. This extension, if passed, will appropriate an approximate total of $150 million under the act for 2013.

Nowhere is the need for improving education greater than in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. I think that everyone in this House would agree that, if we are ever to overcome disadvantage for any group within our community, then we should begin with improving the education standards. I think it is universally agreed across the world that that is the single thing that makes so much difference to the lives of people. Certainly here in Australia, where we know that Indigenous people are more disadvantaged than the rest of the people in this nation, then starting with a good education outcome is an important priority for the government, and it should be for the nation.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education focused programs run under the act are critical to the future of Indigenous Australia. Initiatives in funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are already underway and there are a range of commitments that this government has already made with respect to reducing Indigenous disadvantage. I want to go through what some of those are. The sum of $56.5 million has been allocated nationally to expand literacy and numeracy programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and to provide professional support to assist teachers to develop personalised learning plans for students over the period 2009 to 2012. The government is honouring its 2007 election commitment of $21.9 million to support students from remote communities attending non-remote boarding schools. The government has also allocated $28.9 million for three new boarding facilities in the Northern Territory to support Indigenous kids to achieve a year 12 certificate; $23 million has been allocated for a quality teaching package to upskill and retain the education workforce in Northern Territory schools; $22.7 million has been allocated for on-site accelerated literacy and numeracy support for teaching staff in the Northern Territory; $107.8 million over four years for an additional 200 teachers in the Northern Territory has also been allocated; $35.4 million has been set aside for the school nutrition program for remote schools in the Northern Territory; $9.1 million of funding was announced in the 2009 budget to support creches; $8.9 million was allocated under the Building the Education Revolution for additional classrooms for remote communities, as was $2.5 billion of Smarter Schools National Partnerships funding which targets disadvantage and contributes to improving literacy and numeracy outcomes, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education a key of that focus.

All of those amounts highlight an additional important point—that is, if we are going to address Indigenous disadvantage and lift education standards of Indigenous people across the country, then we need to target funding to specific needs because the reality is that across Australia different communities do have different needs. If we do not recognise that then we will find that, all too often, money that has been allocated in fact does not target the people who need it the most. So by breaking it down into those specific allocations that I have just run through, it means the government well understands what the priorities ought to be and where the focus ought to be of that funding.

When I look at the programs covered in the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 it is evident that many programs are aimed at engagement as well as education. The programs delivered under the act are complementary to mainstream schooling and employ a range of diverse programs designed to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Sporting Chance Program combines school-based sports academies with education engagement strategies that provide a range of sport, recreation and education activities for primary and secondary school students. Other programs include the Indigenous Youth Mobility Program, supplementary recurrent assistance for both non-government vocational education and training and early childhood, as well as Abstudy and mixed mode Away From Base assistance.

If we are going to engage more children in our education sector, we need to begin by also engaging the parents. The act is also about community involvement, as is evidenced by the Parental and Community Engagement Program. The importance of community engagement should never be understated. Historically, low Indigenous engagement in the education system as well as poor education and employment outcomes mean that Indigenous students are less likely to have parental assistance in their studies than non-Indigenous students. The reality has several flow-on effects. Low parental and family education has: firstly, negatively affected Indigenous experiences of and attitudes towards the education system; secondly, reduced the capacity of Indigenous parents and families to engage effectively with the education system; thirdly, reduced parental involvement in school based activities and decision making; and, fourthly, limited the capacity of Indigenous parents and families to support their children in education and employment. The Parental and Community Engagement Program aims to reverse this situation. The government will continue to work at building and strengthening partnerships between families and schools supported by government funding and unflagging determination. In my electorate of Makin, there is an example of the Parental and Community Engagement strategy in place at the North Ingle school at Ingle Farm. The program, which is being run by Centacare Catholic Family Services, has been allocated $23,650 of funding for the family wellbeing project. The project started in January 2010 and is expected to finish on 30 December this year. Centrecare is conducting workshops to empower parents and caregivers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who attend the North Ingle School to engage with school staff and support their children at the school. It is a good example of what can be done at the local level when you understand what the needs are.

The Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 also aims to empower young Indigenous people through the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program. The role Indigenous mentors and role models play in the community is an important one. This program also has the potential to underline the importance of culture, community development and governance in the school environment. The Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan was developed by the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs and launched on 9 June 2011. The action plan includes targeting approximately 900 focus schools and outlines 55 actions at national, systemic and local levels across the following six key areas: readiness for school; engagement and connections; attendance; literacy and numeracy; leadership; quality teaching and workforce development; and pathways to real post-school options.

In last year's budget $15.4 million over four years was prioritised to deliver on the government's commitments under the action plan. We have also approved more than $25 million for projects over 2011 and 2012 to expand intensive literacy and numeracy approaches for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Indeed, since 2008 the government has invested $51.5 million in Indigenous literacy and numeracy projects. Over 20,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in over 670 schools across Australia will benefit from this assistance.

In my home state of South Australia $1 million was provided to Catholic schools for their intensive literacy and numeracy program for Indigenous students and their whole-school planning for targeted personalised learning, with the dual focus on school intervention and literacy and numeracy. Government schools in South Australia will receive a further $1 million for the Unlocking the Future program, which is focused on literacy and teacher capacity. All schools in South Australia—that is, government, Catholic and independent schools—will receive over $3 million to deliver a national program known as Make It Count. This program is focused on improving literacy and teacher capacity.

I close by talking about a local project in the northern and north-eastern suburbs of Adelaide which was undertaken as a partnership between the federal government, the state government of South Australia, Woolworths and two training organisations: Trainme and Globally Make a Difference. It was put together by the Mining, Energy and Engineering Academy of South Australia. This is a program whereby Indigenous people of all ages are selected from the community. Woolworths, as one of key partners, guarantees them a job if they undergo a training program, which in turn gives them a Certificate I or Certificate II in Retail Operations. The program has been an incredible success. Roughly 100 people were originally listed for the program. To date, 91 of those people have commenced the program, 72 have graduated, 42 are currently working with Woolworths and 22 are doing further training. I think those figures are remarkable—remarkable because these were people of all ages who in many cases had never worked before. They were people who had found an incredible number of barriers along the way to getting them into the workforce. But providing them with an opportunity of training and, in turn, the guarantee of a job at the end of that training made a world of difference.

What also made a world of difference was that the two training organisations—and, in particular, Mark Siaosi from Trainme and Melinda Cates from Globally Make a Difference—really understood the people they were working with. They understood them well enough to understand how they should best tailor the training programs that they were providing. They worked with the trainees from start to finish to ensure that they not only completed their training but also participated in the employment experience that was provided by Woolworths along the way. It shows that, when you understand how to run a program and you can guarantee people a job at the end of it, you will get outcomes. I particularly commend Mike Batycki from Woolworths, who is the state manager in South Australia, for overseeing this program and making it available. I have now attended two graduations of the program—this year and last year. I was indeed impressed to see the people coming through the program having graduated and to see the excitement on their faces to think that they had actually achieved something and they had a job waiting for them at the end of the program. That is another good example of where sometimes, if you want results, you have to tailor make the whole program. The federal government has provided $1.2 million of funding as part of its Indigenous Employment Program to fund the program, and it is working. To those people involved—Alan Tidswell, from the Mining Energy and Engineering Academy; Mark Siaosi;Melinda Cates; and Michael Batycki—I say thank you and well done.