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Thursday, 20 September 2007
Page: 195

Senator SCULLION (Minister for Community Services) (5:11 PM) —I seek leave to incorporate my summing-up speech.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

I will sum up the debate on the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment (Cape York Measures) Bill 2007.

Through the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment (Cape York Measures) Bill 2007 funding of $2.0 million will be appropriated for the 2008 programme year to provide additional educational support for Indigenous students and their families in the Cape York region.

Funding provided through the Amendment will be used by the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership to work with the Cape York communities of Coen, Hope Vale, Aurukun, and Mossman Gorge to embed the Making Up Lost Time in Literacy (MUI,TILIT) accelerated literacy programme, and to work with parents and guardians to establish Student Education Trusts (SETs).

Representing a key component of the broader Welfare Reform agenda to tackle disadvantage in Cape York communities, these initiatives will provide further education opportunity for up to 800 Indigenous students in Cape York who may require intensive literacy support, for their families who may require additional assistance to save for the costs of education.

In recognition that, strong literacy skills are a critical factor in school completion and in longer-term success, the MULTILIT component of this measure will enable the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership to further address what it describes as the “Cape York literacy crisis”.

Through the provision of MULTILIT, those Indigenous students with the greatest literacy need will have access to the accelerated literacy programme MULTILIT in their classroom and through a MLTLTILIT Tutorial Centre in their community.

The Cape York Institute has identified that poor literacy outcomes are exacerbated by the fact that, upon entering the school system, many Indigenous children fail to make literacy gains and in some cases slip increasingly further behind. The Institute estimates that by the time Indigenous students are in Year 2, some 60-80% already require additional support, compared with 10-25% of non-Indigenous Cape York children.

The concentrated MULTILIT approach has already produced positive outcomes in Cape York. A trial of MULTILIT, conducted in the community of Coen in 2005, had a sample of participating students about four years behind in both reading accuracy and comprehension at the commencement of the programme. This group gained improvements after only 17 weeks of intensive MULTILIT instruction in their reading with a 43% increase in the number of words that they could read correctly per minute and average comparative gains of: 4.3 months in reading comprehension, 13.6 months in reading accuracy and 15.9 months in spelling. These results have continued in later trials in Coen.

The programme has also been recognised by the 2007 Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Key Indicators Report, which in looking at a range of best practice in early literacy engagement strategies, identified the establishment of MULTILIT in the Cape York community of Coen, as an example of an initiative that has improved the educational outcomes experienced by Indigenous students.

The intensive support provided through MULTILIT will be strengthened by the establishment of Student Education Trusts (SETs) in the Cape. Student Education Trusts will provide low income families with the right support to better use their income to ensure that their child is school ready, and has the support to meet education expenses, such as fees, uniforms, textbooks and excursion fees, as well as home-based expenses such as reading books and other learning aids.

The provision of support for the establishment of Student Education Trusts reflects that while some Indigenous parents in Cape York already contribute financially to their child’s education, the high number of school children who start school without the required uniforms or equipment, and with the minimal learning support in their homes, indicates that many do not.

The roll out of Student Education Trusts into the communities of Coen, Hopevale, Aurukun, and Mossman Gorge, will enable parents, guardians and extended family members to make regular financial contributions to meet their child’s on-going education related expenses from “birth to graduation”.

This initiative is an important part of the Cape York Institute’s strategy to increase the demand for education in Cape York. Through the Trust accounts, the Cape York Institute anticipates that normalised financial expectations in relation to a child’s education will be established and in turn will increase the value of, and commitment, to education in Cape York.

Successfully trialled in the Cape York community of Coen in 2005, Student Education Trusts are now a permanent component of education reform in Coen, being driven by the Cape York Institute. The trial in Coen, achieved an outstanding 80% take up in the first two months. Successes included that:

  • 70% of primary school children had their school uniforms purchased and were ready to start school on time;
  • 80% of primary school children had on average two books purchased through the school book club; and
  • children participated in sporting/education excursions subsidised by savings from their SET.

MULTILIT and Student Education Trusts will have a positive impact on the education outcomes of Indigenous young people and their families in the Cape York region. They will enable the provision of educational assistance to Indigenous students with the greatest need, and will improve the financial capacity of individuals and families to contribute to their child’s education.

The measures are part of the Australian Government’s support for Welfare Reform in Cape York. They reflect the recommendations made by the Cape York Institute, and the Australian Government’s continuing commitment ensuring that Indigenous students, wherever they live, have access to educational opportunities.

Question negatived.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.