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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2714

(Question No. 488)


Senator Reynolds asked the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 8 November 1983:

Is the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs aware of a resolution passed by the Anglican Synod of Carpentaria in far north Queensland on 24 September 1983, which reads 'this Synod expresses very strongly its concern over the poor standard of education in the Torres Strait and urges the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs and Cabinet to respect the wishes of the people of the Torres Strait and hand over the Islands' schools to the Education Department for the good of the future of the Torres Stait Islanders'; if so, will discussions be held between the Federal and State education departments to expedite such a transfer, so that all Torres Strait Islands' children are educated on the same basis as other Australians.


Senator Ryan —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

I am aware of the resolution passed by the Anglican Synod of Carpentaria relating to the provision of education services in the Torres Strait Islands and I share the Synod's concern. You will recall from my answer to a question of 4 April 1984 on this topic that I strongly support the transfer of responsibility for education in the Torres Strait to the Queensland Department of Education. These concerns have also been voiced by my colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in reply to a question put to him in the House of Representatives on 4 May 1984.

At this stage no formal discussions have been arranged between Commonwealth and State Departments of Education, however, I have taken the initiative of writing to the Premier of Queensland on 19 April on this matter. In the letter I emphasised my desire to contribute to the improvement of educational opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander children and expressed the view that the transfer of responsibility for Torres Strait Island schools to the Queensland Department of Education was a necessary first step towards this goal. Should such a transfer fail to take place, resulting in the inevitable perpetuation of the existing unsatisfactory educational situation for Torres Strait islander children, then the Commonwealth would need to assess whether it should become more directly involved in educational matters relating to the needs of these people.

The Premier has acknowledged my letter but has not yet replied in detail. It is my hope that the transfer of responsibility will be effected in the near future, paving the way for a more positive and collaborative approach between Queensland and the Commonwealth in dealing with the educational needs of Torres Strait islander children and youth.