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Monday, 22 August 2011
Page: 8780

Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (15:42): Today I take the opportunity to speak on the Schools Assistance Amendment Bill, which deals with the national curriculum in Australian schools. I think it is extremely important that we have a consistent and uniform curriculum across all schools in this nation.

Australian education has changed enormously over the decades. I particularly want to draw to the House's attention the fact that families are more transient than ever before. Long gone are the days when kids would remain in the same school to receive their education. The reality is that families these days have to move from town to town or state to state, and it is important that those children are not disadvantaged as a consequence of the work pattern that their parents have to undertake. That is why it is important that we have a standard uniform curriculum that provides young people with the opportunity to move from school to school, state to state and to be able to pick up almost where they left off at their previous school.

It is also important that that curriculum remains modern and contemporary for the needs of our nation and the needs of those families and students. Long gone are the days when we studied history, particularly in the context of colonialisation and British history. We have a much more diverse history than that, and our curriculum needs to recognise that. It needs to build on that and reflect the great tradition and diversity we have in Australia. It also needs to instil in students creative thinking and an understanding of ethical behaviour. Personal and social consequences and intercultural understanding are an important part and are important Australian values, and our curriculum needs to very clearly recognise that and instil in our young people the necessary skills to be able to respond to what is now a very multicultural society. The details of these bills are important and I would like to take some time to go through them. The regulation will prescribe as the national curriculum any new version of the Australian Curriculum authorised by the Council of Australian Governments Standing Council for School Education and Early Childhood. The amendment will provide a more certain legal framework for the non-government sector in which to implement the national curriculum and provide greater administrative efficiency for prescribing the phased introduction of the curriculum.

Australia has a world-class curriculum that recognises the 21st century. We have a world-class curriculum in the development of skills and knowledge in all of the important areas—English, mathematics, science and history, with development in geography, languages and arts well underway to be implemented at a later time. For the first time, students all over Australia will be studying the same curriculum in the four key areas. As I mentioned earlier, families move around much more than they have historically. State boundaries have become a problem for students and families, particularly when it comes to slotting kids into new schools in different areas. They find that subjects that they have already learnt are now being taught and that they miss out on other subjects through the course of their studies. It is important that we provide uniformity in our curriculum so that young students are not disadvantaged in that regard.

It is also important that we recognise that we have two forms of school education in Australia: one provided by the states and territories and the other provided by independent providers. As students move between government schools, students also move between private and independent schools and government schools and vice versa. Again, it is important that we recognise that fact and have uniformity of education wherever possible, particularly in the key fundamental areas of education such as English, languages, science, mathematics, the arts and the like. That is extremely important.

I would like to report that I have 70-odd schools that service my electorate. It is a diverse bunch of schools teaching a very diverse bunch of students. My electorate covers some 7,000 square kilometres and many of my students have to travel some distance to access education. All of those families require quality education for their children. I would also like to point out that not only have we in the government been busy with respect to establishing decent curriculum standards across this nation but also we have invested substantially in the infrastructure that is required to help support modern education, whether through the provision of language labs in secondary schools or libraries and multipurpose classrooms and the like in primary schools—again, providing flexible learning spaces that give students every opportunity to access that curriculum in a modern way.

I would like to take this opportunity to point to a number of primary schools particularly in my electorate that, whilst they have received special funds under the Building the Education Revolution program, are in desperate need of a boost to help support a modern curriculum. (Quorum formed)

Mr CHEESEMAN: Obviously the tactics committee and the Liberal Party has been flat out this afternoon. Before the quorum was called, I was talking about a number of primary schools in my electorate that require a substantial amount of funding to help them rebuild themselves. I draw the attention of the House to Portarlington Primary School and Birregurra Primary School, both of which have a substantial number of buildings which have been there a very long time and should be bulldozed and replaced with new, modern facilities to provide modern infrastructure so that the curriculum can be—

Mr Fletcher: Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order: understanding standing order 76, I put it to you that what the member is speaking about is not relevant to the matter before us—that is, the Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011, not a listing of BER grants in his electorate, which is what we are hearing.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): I counsel the honourable member for Corangamite to observe the standing orders; however I do draw to the attention of the honourable member for Bradfield the long title of the bill, which is 'a bill for an act to amend the law relating to education and for related purposes'. The addition of the words 'and for related purposes' does tend to widen somewhat the ambit of the discussion. The member for Corangamite has the call.

Mr CHEESEMAN: Those are very wise words, Mr Deputy Speaker. To deliver curriculum in schools in a modern way, you need modern facilities, and the BER program provided modern facilities for schools. Having said that, there are some schools that still require further assistance with the building of infrastructure so that they can deliver a modern, flexible curriculum that responds to national need, and Portarlington Primary School and Birregurra Primary School are two examples of schools that are old and need investment. Whilst those school communities have very much appreciated the BER investment in those schools, it is incumbent upon the state government to come to the table and help support those school communities in their time of need.

Within my electorate I have many communities that are rapidly growing. The people in those communities come from diverse backgrounds, and they appreciate and recognise the importance of having strong education for their kids. This government has done more to reform education in all sectors than any other government has done since Federation. Our side, the Labor Party, is very proud of that. We recognise that the best way to give a student a decent life is to give them a decent education, and the cornerstone of that is having a strong curriculum that is flexible and creative and enables our students to grow in a way that we all can be extremely proud of.

I am very pleased that a number of schools have come together and made a very strong application for a trades training centre. Indeed, they have picked up a grant to build a new trades training facility that will look after the Coolac, Apollo Bay and Lavers Hill communities. If we want to have a curriculum that delivers strongly for students in our electorates we need to make sure that we provide the facilities that are appropriate to the curriculum, and trades training will provide opportunities to young people. We also need to make sure that we have in our schools appropriate access to computers, because for anyone— (Time expired)