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Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Page: 647

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Human Services) (12:04 PM) —I would like to thank all those who spoke on the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment (2008 Measures No. 1) Bill 2008. The Rudd government is committed to closing the gap between the educational outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. This bill will appropriate funding in the order of $7.162 million over the 2008 school year. This funding is for the recruitment of 50 teachers for employment in Northern Territory schools as part of the government’s commitment of 200 additional teachers. Funding of $56.8 million will also be provided, through subsequent acts, for the remaining 150 teachers over the 2009-11 school years.

Under this measure, funding will be used by Northern Territory education providers, who will be responsible for the recruitment, deployment and housing of the additional teachers. There are an estimated 10,000 school-age children in Indigenous communities who are part of the Northern Territory emergency response measures. Of these, the best estimates are that only some 8,000 are enrolled at school, leaving up to 2,000 school-age children not enrolled at all. A further 2,500 enrolled students do not attend school regularly enough to benefit from their educational experience. If we are to encourage these young Indigenous people to come to school, we need to have enough teachers ready to teach them. The government is, therefore, committed to providing funding for these additional 200 teachers in the Northern Territory over the next four years. We are determined to play our part with practical measures such as this and to work with Indigenous people and the Northern Territory education providers. This commitment is underpinned by three guiding principles. The Prime Minister provided those and outlined them. They are: respect, cooperation and mutual responsibility. This partnership approach will ensure that these young people have every opportunity to receive the quality education they are worthy of. The measures complement the government’s broader education policy and align with a number of other measures for Indigenous students in the Northern Territory, including a quality teaching and accelerated literacy package to ensure that students benefit from a high-quality teaching workforce and additional classrooms to ensure that the existing infrastructure meets the demands of anticipated enrolment increases.

The government has also promised to build three new boarding facilities for Indigenous secondary students in the Northern Territory and to expand intensive literacy and numeracy programs. The Australian and Northern Territory governments will work cooperatively on these goals and have entered into a memorandum of understanding that ensures effective collaboration on the implementation of important education and training initiatives like this one, which have the potential to impact positively on the lives of these children.

While there are well-documented challenges to face when addressing the gap in education outcomes for Indigenous students, having enough skilled staff is a practical measure aimed at lifting the education standards of Indigenous students. This tangible measure is designed to contribute to improving literacy and numeracy outcomes for Indigenous children and closing this unacceptable gap between the achievements and opportunities of our Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. This bill for additional teaching funding is a small but important step towards these goals. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.