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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Page: 10288

Mr MELHAM (Banks) (22:04): With a number of my parliamentary colleagues this week, I hosted two young students as part of the Learn Earn Legend! Work Exposure in Government program. I was very happy to spend some time with Mikey Donald and with Jessi Bryan. Jessi is currently studying at Banora Point High School in New South Wales and is moving toward becoming a diesel mechanic. Currently he is completing work experience as a step to that ambition. Mikey is from Cairns and is currently studying at Pymble Ladies' College in Sydney, New South Wales. She hopes eventually to work in the area of Indigenous health.

The Learn Earn Legend! Program utilises role modelling for young Indigenous Australians from years 11 and 12 to encourage and support them to stay at school, get a job and to be a legend for themselves, their families and their communities. Role models are provided by such legends as Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, Scott Prince and Preston Campbell. Mikey described Evonne as her 'second mother' in terms of her availability and support. Evonne, apart from her other significant achievements, has run the Goolagong National Development Camp since 2005 for Indigenous youngsters with potential to become pro players, coaches or administrators. From the program, 19 young people have received tennis scholarships, six are qualified level 1 coaches and four work in sports administration. Scott Prince is an Indigenous All Star and has a role as a Learn Earn Legend! ambassador. Scott works at inspiring Indigenous children, both on and off the field, to get the education they need to follow their dreams. As a former NRL player with the Titans, Preston Campbell is also an ambassador for the program.

What particularly struck me as I spoke with both Jessi and Mikey is how much a part of the program the ambassadors and mentors actually are. Both students spoke of their ambassadors and mentors with firsthand knowledge. None of these sporting greats just lends their name to this worthwhile program; they are in reality a part of it. It could be easy to lend their name to a program and not participate, but, in speaking with the students yesterday and today, I know that these mentors directly interact with and support the students.

The program aims at exposing the students to opportunities in political life and in government departments and agencies. I note from Minister Collins that at 31 December 2011 there were around 3,700 Indigenous Australians in the Australian Public Service, or 2.2 per cent of its employees. It is important that these students, especially those who live outside the capital cities, are exposed to the opportunities available to them. It is in this way that the students are able to aim for a career perhaps outside those they may have previously considered.

Both Jessi and Mikey are impressive people, and they valued the experience of visiting Parliament House and Canberra. They are quite clear on what their aspirations are but are happy to consider new ideas and approaches. My office was also able to arrange a visit to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and to Old Parliament House. The students were able to see the changes that have occurred specifically in Indigenous affairs in this country since the establishment of the tent embassy—now a heritage site—in 1972. They were also able to see, apart from anything else, the massive technological changes since that period, at least in the press gallery and in members' offices.

I regard this as a valuable exercise for the government to undertake and was happy to spend my time with these students. They were open minded and interested in what they experienced. I trust that Jessi and Mikey consider the visit worthwhile and will take some of this place with them as they move into the next stage of their lives. I wish them both well. From what I saw of them, they are the leaders of tomorrow. I draw inspiration from their enthusiasm, from their vision and from their generosity of spirit, and we are in good hands in interacting with them.