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SELECT COMMITTEE ON REGIONAL AND REMOTE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES
21/05/2009
Effectiveness of state, territory and Commonwealth government policies on regional and remote Indigenous communities

ACTING CHAIR (Senator Crossin) —I now welcome representatives from the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. The information on parliamentary privilege and protection of witnesses has been provided to you. We do not actually have a submission from you so we will invite you to make a short opening statement and then we will go to questions. Can I just say that I will be leaving at 4.30 pm. I do not think anybody else from the committee is, but I am heading off to go to the CDU’s graduation tonight. I just wanted to let you know the reason why I am leaving. I am not working out because of my lack of interest in what you have got to say; I just have another commitment.

Prof. Stephenson —Apologies that we did not actually get our written paper in for this committee hearing but when we were alerted to the fact that you were coming we made approaches to attend. We have found some people to present some of the ideas that we have been raising at various times with various levels of government.

What I wanted to do initially is just introduce Batchelor Institute and the perspective that we might bring to this discussion and to hand on to Mr Anderson, whose role at Batchelor takes him out to the regions and the remote communities as part of our strategic community liaison and engagement processes. Patrick sees and hears a lot of information from out in the communities, at least from the top end. There is another Patrick in the centre who is not available. Then I will hand over Dr Fasoli, whose research work over the last 18 months has been an internally funded research grant that happens to have picked up on what early childhood workers have felt and seen from their perspective about the impact of the NTER. There are fairly recent findings based on visits and consultations with about 17 different communities and 30-odd childcare workers and their perspective. We would like to present some findings on those. If we are not following structure, I apologise but we will just bumble through.

By way of background, as many of you already know—I know the NT members do—Batchelor has been around for 30-plus years, closer to 40. It was established initially as a teacher aide and teacher training school. Across the late 1970s and 1980s it expanded its TAFE or VET suite of programs to specifically serve the needs of NT communities. Over the years it has developed education programs in art and craft, construction, language and linguistics and a whole range of community based training programs that give certificate level training to people in the community. Over those years we have largely focused on community based delivery plus NT students coming in to our campuses either at Batchelor, Tennant Creek, Katherine or Alice Springs to attend formal training blocks for the VET sector.

Over the years in the 1990s we became a Table A provider, a dual sector tertiary education institute, and were delivering then diplomas and degrees. At that time, I guess like other Table A dual sectors, we had NT funding for our VET programs and federal funding for our higher education programs. The last couple of years have seen us also push into research offerings and this year for the first time we have commenced enrolments in PhDs. Now our pool of students is floating around the 2,000 to 3,000 students with about one-third being higher education students, mainly from interstate, and the other two-thirds being NT VET students.

From that perspective we will talk about what are some of the changes that have occurred across the last couple of years and from our point of view the issues that have impacted on us as the provider of training to solely Indigenous students and how we see that impacting on some of the Aboriginal people from the NT. I will now hand over to Mr Anderson and we will pipe up as we remember bits and pieces.

Mr Anderson —My point is in reference to the Northern Territory Emergency Response program and how that program has impacted on the Batchelor institute. We do have students undertaking studies as carers. Those ladies, being mothers, throughout the implementation of this program were not prepared to leave their community to travel to either Batchelor or Alice Springs to engage in any form of study due to being fearful of losing their children. A lot of these things were quite evident in conversation with all of the ladies coming to Batchelor and to Tennant Creek and other study centres. This meant that the programs and a range of other courses were short of enrolled students, which in the long term meant that the institute was not able to meet its educational targets and now we are going to be required to hand back millions of dollars for a number of different issues out there in terms of the changes brought about with the NTER.

Another point is that students have ceased to engage in a lot of our programs from a range of remote communities due to also being income managed. By this I mean that 50 per cent of the student’s funds are quarantined and other personal funds are left in the community with their families, which leaves no funds for those participants or people to travel to Batchelor, Alice Springs or whatever sites when leaving their communities to undertake studies. Previously, a lot of the students travelled with some money, to get a soft drink and so forth after hours, but none of that is possible now and has not been possible for quite a while. A lot of these are mature age adults who leave their communities and families for up to two weeks at a time from block release. This scenario is taking its toll, especially in these release workshops that are being undertaken.

A lot of these workshops are being cancelled right across-the-board due to the income management, particular health checks and so on, and have been for quite a while due to the NTER. Just to add to the dilemma and confusion amongst some of the people in the community and also registered training organisations such as Batchelor, we also had to come to grips with the massive amount of changes taking place across the Northern Territory, which included the revamp of CDEP; the shire developments which replaced the community government councils; the Commonwealth Department of Family, Housing, Community Service and Indigenous Affairs, FaHCSIA, which incorporated all the government business managers into the affairs of the communities; and also the establishment of DEEWR, Commonwealth Employment, Education and Workplace Relations, community employment brokers to coordinate all the matters in the community. A lot of these things, other than RTOs and the communities I am pretty sure had a lot of the people’s heads spinning in terms of not being able to actually take on any further study and to leave their communities. They are some of the points I wanted to raise.

On a positive note, I just wanted to highlight that Batchelor has under a COAG 2008-2010 program targeted skilled needs in the regions, which is funded by DEEWR. We have successfully established a number of community education and training facilities used by the communities in that capacity. They have been built in Lake Nash, or Alpurrurulam. That was completed in August 2008 and was handed over to the Barkly Shire soon after completion. There was also a building being built in Barunga for the same educational purpose and at Milikapiti over on the Tiwi Island which will commence at the end of July this year and will become an asset of the Tiwi Island Training and Employment Board.

All of these building projects have been community based under the Batchelor construction program and once those facilities are completed the community has an option to formalise a partnership arrangement with Batchelor Institute or standalone and go to many other registered training organisations. I wanted to highlight some negatives and positives.

Dr Fasoli —I will speak as clearly as I can, but I do have a cold. This research was undertaken because students were arriving for the children’s services courses that were run at Batchelor Institute at the beginning of the intervention especially without any interest in doing any study. They were there and lecturers that worked with them were saying, ‘We can’t get them to focus on anything’ so it was decided that we needed to debrief and talk to people about how the intervention was affecting them, because that was the priority of the day. We did a very quick ethics clearance through the institute research ethics committee so that the next time we saw them we could work in a formal way through a participatory action research project. That had five cycles. If you are familiar with action research, it is revisiting the same ideas again and again, looking at problems that come up and thinking about solutions.

There were basically 17 different communities involved, because we take students from all over the territory, and they all work in children’s services—34 communities, both top end and central. We worked with them in a workshop for the first time. Initially we were going to go to the communities and work with them. That was what they suggested at first, but when we approached some of the communities we were waved away. They said, ‘We’ve got enough on our plate. We don’t want some researchers running around asking questions about the issues that are going on.’ We decided it would be better to do it from the workshop base. After hours after they had finished their study we spent time talking about basically three questions. What do you know about the intervention? What impact has it had on you, your childcare centre, JET crèche or whatever service that you are running? What impact is it having on your community? Those are the findings that I would like to very briefly summarise for you. I have brought a copy of the paper that is about to be published if you wish to read through that rather than have me continue on.

CHAIR —Yes, thank you very much.

Dr Fasoli —I will just give you a few snapshots. In 2007 when we started the research the intervention had just started and people were saying, in essence, that they did not understand why. They knew that CDEP was going to change, but not why. They had heard that it would improve school attendance so they were happy about that. This is out of the 17 communities. There were varying proportions of people having these views. About a third of the people thought that it might stop child abuse and they were happy about that, and a third thought it would improve children’s health.

In 2008 everyone understood more but still had a lot of questions. In the first rounds of workshops a lot of people did not know what was going on because the actual action started from the centre and moved its way up and a lot of our students had heard about it creeping up the Territory, but had not had any first-hand experiences. Most people saw some changes in CDEP, but in a lot of the communities it was still the same a long time after the commencement. Some believed that it was trying to stop child abuse, but people were still not reporting child abuse because they were too frightened to report and they did not know how to report child abuse. Virtually all the childcare workers that we worked with said they had never been directly spoken to by any of the staff from the intervention to say, ‘This is why we are here. This is how you might address child abuse issues that you detect in your children’s service. These are the proper procedures for addressing a concern or an issue.’ We found that the most surprising. I would have thought that children’s services workers would have been the first port of call for people wanting to stop child abuse.

Some people thought it was about removing land permits in 2007 and they were very worried about that, but in the second year that we talked to them they were not worried about that anymore. Not many people knew what the word ‘pornography’ meant and they did not have that explained to them. In fact, a colleague of mine was telling me that in one of the communities Austar is universally available and it is possible to get pornography on the Austar channels because the supplier does not want to have to block for different communities and different postcodes. It was being discussed. Even last week people did not know what the word ‘pornography’ meant and needed to have that explained to them. I think there was an awful lot of misunderstanding and perhaps lost opportunities to collaborate and work more consultatively because of the lack of employment of interpreters. There was some interpretation, but I was in communities when some of that broadcasting of information was happening and there could be 150 people, a lot of kids making noise and somebody translating, and it was hard to hear anything. I believe that a lot of people simply did not get the message about what was happening, so interpretation would have helped. At the end of the day some of the concerns are that people are still worried about money because of the income management. People are still on CDEP and still worried about what is going to happen if it changes again. The constant change issue is continuing to concern them. A lot of people say there is still not enough money for food for large families. Some direct quotes from the childcare workers are:

Haven’t seen any non-Indigenous children being checked by army.

Non-Indigenous children get abused too.

Aged pensioners feel targeted by quarantining when they don’t have responsibility for children.

We don’t need food vouchers, but our family has to use them.

It is that sort of feeling insulted and ashamed by what is happening to them and they do not understand why this has happened.

Some people are still scared and confused. In the second round of discussing how people felt about it they were still saying those sorts of things. Some have accepted it and there are some positives. There is better attendance at childcare, preschool and school. People agreed that that was the case. It was a good idea to employ more police. People have been feeling very fearful without having any form of law and order in their communities, especially the small ones. With removal of permits, the intervention mob came in and sacked the white people who were not doing their jobs. That was a positive outcome. Despite the fact that they did not appreciate the invasion they thought one of the good points was that some of those people that needed to go from communities were identified and have left, so that is not all bad. There were more people in work and less grog coming in.

I could go on, but those are the sorts of things that people were saying. It really is from the horse’s mouth in terms of what people on the ground are experiencing. We do not get to hear that very often. We certainly do not get to hear childcare workers’ viewpoints on very many issues. I hope that those ideas will be taken on board and treated seriously.

CHAIR —I am very interested that someone took the opportunity to have an evidence based study. It is terrific that you had that opportunity. You talked about the CDEP. Prior to the rollout of the intervention there was an understanding that the Commonwealth had provided a great deal of funding to the Territory to ensure that anybody who was on CDEP, who should have been either a local government employee, a Territory government employee or in fact a Commonwealth government employee, should have been paid a proper wage. From the people you spoke to was there any understanding that that was the case?

Dr Fasoli —No. In fact, people were cynical about the real job idea. What it meant in some communities was that we had eight people working in childcare learning to look after little kids and being trained up, but suddenly when it became a real job they lost workers because they could only afford to pay a certain number of workers compared with having more on CDEP. That was a consequence.

CHAIR —So, there were winners and losers rather than everybody being at this level?

Dr Fasoli —Yes. Most people had no idea. They were just confused about CDEP and what was going to happen to it.

CHAIR —I am interested in some of the methodology. Was there a group meeting from each area or from each course? What was the demographic that you were questioning? Did you question them as individuals by themselves or did you do it as a group?

Dr Fasoli —We were all in the same room but we had separate tutors that sat with small groups of people and language groups, because some of the people did not speak sufficient English to do a questionnaire.

CHAIR —Were the clan groups all together when they answered it?

Dr Fasoli —The language groups were together with interpreters. We also had a written survey for people who wanted to go off by themselves and write their stuff up. There was quite a wide range of literacy capabilities amongst that group of people. It was variable—small groups, individuals and surveys.

CHAIR —Is it your intention to continue in that same way? Obviously, the methodology will remain the same. Do you have an intention to do it annually?

Dr Fasoli —We did not, but it sounds like a good idea. There is absolutely no reason why we could not do that.

CHAIR —Certainly those views from a similar sort of demographics over time would be very valuable. Thank you. Mr Anderson, with the challenges about the income management and people travelling to Batchelor, you mentioned both the travel and also some ancillary costs. I just wanted to clarify this. For the people who travelled to Batchelor is there no capacity as part of the course for travel? Do they have to travel on their own cognisance at all times to Batchelor?

Mr Anderson —No. There is an allocation for students to travel to and from their community to Batchelor for programs. It is just a matter of having personal money on them. I am not sure if you know, but most of the shops in Batchelor, apart from a couple of the small cafes, are not open after 6 pm. You are there for a two-week period and there is no real recreation so you probably want to go down and buy a soft drink, a chocolate or whatever. With a lot of the money left in the community with the family and half of the salary already quarantined a lot of people are left in a situation where—

CHAIR —They are leaving the cash component in the community and they obviously only have the basics card when they are at Batchelor.

Mr Anderson —Yes.

CHAIR —I just wanted to clarify that. When the changes came, in terms of demographic—obviously you are not only a business but somebody who knows the community changes very well—when you had some trend changes obviously people were not coming in and you have gone out and talked to them about why that is. Is there any capacity to become a bit more mobile, particularly in terms of the block workshops? Did you go back to the communities or move into the communities to try to deliver them outside of Batchelor and back into the communities? I know that is not necessarily mischievous, but some of the communities are obviously large enough to have that capacity and some are not. What changes have you made to try to deal with that?

Mr Anderson —There is the capacity to run workshops in the community, but not if there are only two or three people in a specific professional area. We need at least 10 to 12 people to make it viable for a staff member to be out there for a set time. There is also an opportunity for a cluster of different homelands and groups to come to that one centre.

Prof. Stephenson —We have a funding model for our NT VET delivery that is very much based on the number of people who attend. You would not find many registered training organisations sticking their hand up to go to far off remote communities on a promise that there are going to be people there and then turn around, come back and say, ‘That just cost us $7,000 and there’s no training done. We haven’t met our targets once again.’ We have had to operate in that environment for a long time, and at a point when it required us to negotiate in another way with a whole bunch of new people and new players in community. There is still settling down around that. We now have to talk with shires. Shires have a set idea on who they will support to go into training and who they will not. Often they are after the small freelance RTOs who just go out there and give training on how to drive a car or how to drive a grader. They will demand fairly specific, very focused jobs, but not necessarily qualification-level training.

We have had to amend our approach in some respects to deliver just skills set training. We just batch up some units that focus on a job rather than a qualification. That is a risk to us because suddenly our NT funding agency says, ‘You’re completion rates seem to have fallen out of the floor. You don’t seem to be able to keep students in courses.’ We will say, ‘No. We can’t afford to keep students in courses because the demand at the moment is purely about getting people with this set of skills through a limited set of units in order to make them effective.’

There is a fair bit going on in terms of the changes in demand and also the changes in ability to get training out to places. A lot of private providers are out there. Jobs Network agencies are dealing directly with them because all they need is one day’s training, it is ticked off and that person is now employable perhaps in a very narrow field. We are fairly concerned about what that means to a group of people who already have had failings in their primary education and secondary education. We are now looking at a fairly narrow base for tertiary, particularly in the VET sector.

CHAIR —If this circumstance continues, if there were a change in policy—and I am assuming the policy still remains that ash hours are still the currency, notwithstanding the remote sort of little thing that never pays the bills and away it goes.

Prof. Stephenson —Yes, that is right.

CHAIR —If you can demonstrate that these circumstances are happening—and I have no reason to doubt it—if there were a package that said for profitability and what we would normally have here would be this many students, which would equal this many hours, the government could simply say, ‘Here’s the package. You deliver that package.’ If there is perhaps a fall down in hours, if there were a contractual arrangement to deliver those packages, if required, it could still profitable whether those people firstly complete and then attend. I know that people will frown about those things, but in the circumstances you have described that could be a potential policy in terms of the currency and the way we approach the currency of the training delivery that may provide some respite.

Prof. Stephenson —Yes. That is something that we have put forward for many years. NT government policy is not that; it is based on hours of delivery and therefore hours of attendance. At this stage there is no change in sight around that. However, there are smaller funding pools available to do relief delivery in very focused areas, but that is not for whole qualifications. There are two models of funding available. The dominant one is the one that is costing us a fortune, and the other one is the smaller pool where we can go in, deliver and come out and, whether there were five or 50 people there, our costs are covered.

CHAIR —The costs are covered, but it is a loss in effect?

Prof. Stephenson —It is still a loss, yes.

Mr Anderson —It also comes to the point whether that community is resourced well enough or in terms of matching that professional area, say, the building and construction area. A lot of those points also come into play if we are going to deliver in that community as well. It is whether we have the resources in that community, infrastructure and so forth.

CHAIR —Senator Moore.

Senator MOORE —I think Senator Siewert should go first.

CHAIR —Senator Siewert.

Senator SIEWERT —It is Senator Adams’s area.

CHAIR —Senator Adams.

Senator ADAMS —As we have travelled around adult education has probably been one of our main concerns and the concern of the communities, with the younger men leaving school very early and then later on coming back and wanting to be educated so that they can get a real job. There seems to be no facility for that. Primary school up to year 10 are catered for, but after that there is this group of youth who really want to learn but do not want to be involved with the kids at school. They are men and the little kids, in a way, because they have been going to school, might be able to answer questions a lot better than them. They do not want to be embarrassed. But they have realised that they really are missing out and they have to learn, but there is no facility or no way to actually teach them. This is mainly the basics and not perhaps at the level that you are looking at. Obviously, you would have found that as you move around the communities, but what can be done in that respect? Is there any way that you can tailor a program that can get them up so that they can do these certificates?

Prof. Stephenson —One of the things that we are coming across more and more is a request to do VET in schools. You would be familiar with that phrase.

Senator ADAMS —Yes.

Prof. Stephenson —Unfortunately, our experience with that is that it is not always seen as the answer for us. In theory, it is providing an opportunity for people who are failing in school to go off and do some work-style study and then go into jobs from there. Sometimes when we deliver it we find that it is not just 15- or 16-year-old kids who come to it, it is actually 26-year-old kids who come to it. Their level of education is grade seven or eight and they have been out bush for a fair while in between so it has been a long time since they were studying. In some ways it has been framed up as something that will provide a pathway to better things, but often it is just holding them for a bit longer. A lot of students who enter that do not complete those programs either. It does not seem that those types of skill based training programs, that are seen as safety net, are particularly helpful because, once again, what is not part of them is the English language and literacy component. It is just about getting them into a workshop and teaching them how to drill holes, cut metal, weld or whatever it might be. It does not necessarily come packaged up with literacy and numeracy-type training hand in hand.

Senator ADAMS —Your university is saying that you have all of the extra money left over because you are not able to attract students to the different components that you are teaching.

Prof. Stephenson —We did not say we had leftover money.

Senator ADAMS —I thought you were saying that you have got money that has to go back.

Prof. Stephenson —No. It has to go back, but it has already been spent. We have travelled out. We have exhausted the bank account and we have not actually delivered on our funded hours.

Senator ADAMS —As I said, this is something that has arisen practically everywhere we have gone. Is there any way that you could package something up that would help these communities to get the people out, whether they are the young youth, the 26- to 30-year-olds or even adults? It really is an issue.

Prof. Stephenson —I will make a quick response and then hand over to Dr Fasoli with another part. One of the issues for us is that there has not only been a particular funding model; it is based on our utilising national training packages. They are training packages that are delivered, these days, in Victoria for education and training in Melbourne and other big cities. Five years ago, and even last year, there was still the last of the NT training qualifications floating around in the VET sector, and any Indigenous community training we did was largely an NT qualification designed for the Aboriginal community context. NT government stopped funding those, and the federal system has meant a national training package that has overridden all of those qualifications. We have to do a lot of work to make that sort of qualification fit into any of the world context of the people we work with, and so there are some big gaps in assumed knowledge that we need to overcome. A large part of it is for us to say, ‘How can we get that skill base established through our training and how else can we include in that the stuff that is necessary to be able to read the book, numeracy and literacy?’ There does not seem to be enough funding associated with numeracy and literacy training alongside skill development training.

Senator ADAMS —You are saying that there is no flexibility in the system?

Prof. Stephenson —We are talking about the VET sector. There is close to zero flexibility in the VET sector nationally.

Senator SIEWERT —We were told that in Victoria Crossing when we went to see some of the training delivery groups up there. We were told that they were having terrible trouble.

Prof. Stephenson —And our responsiveness as an organisation to new requests in the community is worse because of the requirements of setting up against a national training package to be funded for delivery into those places. One of the things if at all possible in this particular territory/jurisdiction would be an increase in the funding of non-accredited training that dealt with this context as opposed to Melbourne.

Senator ADAMS —That is obviously a huge need. I do not know whether the committee agrees it is a recommendation, but we have certainly had a lot of evidence along that line wherever we go.

Senator SIEWERT —And not just in the NT, either. In WA it is the same.

Mr Anderson —A lot of communities we have travelled to have virtually asked for all of the different trade areas to actually incorporate literacy with their programs so that they can understand the language of that profession as well. That does not seem to be happening. You have a lot of RTOs that are always keeping them separate in terms of the literacy programs running solely compared with the other programs, and never incorporating both.

Dr Fasoli —There are lots of good ideas blowing in the wind, but they have not necessarily registered on the practical level. One of the projects I have been working with CDU on, with Michael Christie and the University of Canberra, is called Read English on the web, which is an online literacy learning program for adults. It is very effective for helping people learn. It works as a bit of software and now it needs the content of courses put into it to enable people to learn, like you were saying, Mr Anderson, the language of your discipline. You are learning English, you are learning to read and you are learning what you need to know about your discipline.

The whole online business is ripe for use in remote communities. We have been trying for a number of years to get going, but it is no good to try to communicate when there is no receptor out there. Until there is better infrastructure around the internet and access to computers in remote communities, you can have all the wonderful online interactive units here that you want, but there is not going to be any way for people to use them.

One of the communities that I have been working with at Atitjere has been waiting for their internet café, which is a wonderful initiative, for nearly two years. All is needed is a technician to come out and screw some wires together. That has been happening all over the place. Internet connectivity would clearly ramp up what could happen in remote communities. In my experience, the minute Indigenous people get on the internet and computers they learn very quickly. It is not hard.

The other thing is the relevance of training packages. In terms of the human services industry, if I have to call it that, there is a lot of competence that is not recognised in a national training package that is required to work in a remote Indigenous community. Obviously the area I know most about is children’s services, but also education. The best people to work with kids are the local people. They are the people we want trained so that they will stay there and be the educators of the future. But a percentage of their competence is not registered in a national training package. It is just not there, because it is not seen as relevant. I am thinking about knowing about relationships, understanding how to behave with children in a way that is culturally appropriate, understanding child rearing values and child rearing approaches from both a Western and Indigenous perspective so that children grow up not only to be educated but also to be strong Indigenous people; that they are not just assimilated. That is one of the problems with a lot of early childhood courses where basically the thrust is so much on literacy, numeracy and learning how to look after children properly from a Western perspective. Indigenous people know how to look after children properly from an Indigenous perspective. There is a lot we could learn if those competencies were included.

That whole business needs to be looked at again and I think probably the only way it could happen is to go back to NT qualifications rather than the national training package. Some 35 per cent to 40 per cent of our kids that are Indigenous, so 35 per cent to 40 per cent of what we are doing should have an Indigenous flavour to it. It should have Indigenous values and views underpinning it, and not just the mainstream. There is not a single Indigenous parent or childcare worker that I know who does not want their child to learn to read and write. I am sure you have heard that over and over again. They want their kids to get an education, but not at the expenses of their identities, and I think that is fair enough.

CHAIR —Just a point of clarification, are you saying that it is of benefit to expand the competencies to include the Indigenous child rearing elements; that it is to the benefit of our wider community in understanding those sorts of things?

Dr Fasoli —In particular non-Indigenous people who come to work in those communities need to have those competencies.

CHAIR —That is more targeted at people who intend to work in the communities rather than to advance any of the circumstances in the community itself?

Dr Fasoli —I would say it would enrich our community.

CHAIR —Yes, indeed. Thank you.

Dr Fasoli —And the wider community as well.

Mr Anderson —In your discussions at the different places that you have been to have any of the groups linked to Aboriginal or Indigenous education and training talked about the importance of succession planning and their concerns in those areas?

Senator MOORE —Not to a great extent. Probably the real jobs coming online has made people really start to think, ‘I want to get a real job, but I can’t because I don’t know this and don’t know that.’ All of a sudden there has been this great interest. You commented on computers. I think that young men find it is an interaction with a computer. It is not sitting in a class where someone might be smarter than them and make them look foolish because they do not understand. The computer is talking to them, they feel really at ease with it because it is not a threat and they are not going to be embarrassed. This seemed to be coming up when we spoke to some of the young men. They really enjoyed the computer, but there were not enough computers and there was no-one there to teach them, so they had to teach themselves. This seemed to be accentuated wherever we went. We are also getting the young mums wanting to get themselves up so they can get a job in the store or something like that. As these job opportunities come up there is going to be more and more demand for some basic numeracy and literacy so that they can actually compete.

We have found at Hermannsburg that the ranger program goes through CDEP and then there are real jobs available, but they have to compete with everyone else outside. They are trained in how to apply for the job, do all this sort of thing, and then when they actually get a job it is a terrific role model to the others coming along. This is what is really accentuating the need to learn and wanting to learn. Once you get someone wanting to learn there is a huge difference from someone being dragged along when they do not want to learn. There is a big opening there, but once again the flexibility of the program is your problem.

Senator SIEWERT —It has also been raised that some of the older people are concerned that there are no younger people coming through to take over. They have not been trained. It has been said to me a number of times that there is not a lot of training in leadership, and some of the leaders are concerned that there is not the next generation of leaders coming through. We have had that said to us a number of times.

CHAIR —Thank you for providing your evidence today. As you can see, we have gone over time. That is probably a function of our interest in this matter. This is a select standing committee; it does not have an end until the end of parliament, so you may receive some questions on notice through the secretariat.

Prof. Stephenson —Thank you for your time.

[4.39 pm]