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Tuesday, 12 October 1971
Page: 2206


Mr COHEN (Robertson) - Mr Corbett,1 am sorry that me honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has left the chamber. The honourable member made a fairly rambling and incoherent speech full of his usual inanities. When he replied to an interjection I began to wonder whether he had not been present with some of his colleagues last Friday night supporting the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes) at his pre-selection meeting. 1 want to speak primarily about education and the estimates we are now discussing. lt has been said that education is the key to an egalitarian society. We have lived for many years with the myth of equality of opportunity. Our community believes that by the provision of free primary and secondary education sufficient has been done and that those who fail to make it through the system fail through their own fault and their inability to cope adequately with the education system. 1 believe this is a myth - a myth perpetrated by the Liberal-Country Party Government. UNESCO research has shown clearly that any group of people, irrespective of its religion, race, nationality or economic grouping, has an equal proportion of people of low, medium and high intelligence quotient or capacity, yet in any society such as ours it is clear that the high economic groupings still provide the majority of the professional and commercial ruling classes. They continue to dominate as it can be seen that about IS times the number of graduates come from the north shore of Sydney as come from the working class suburbs.

If one believes the UNESCO studies and any accepted demographic studies, there must be some great deficiency in our education system if it continues to perpetuate privilege in this way. One must recognise that environment plays an important part in the development of society, and it is extremely difficult to change environment. It is also extremely difficult to give a child motivation, but it can be done through the education system. At the moment deprivation in the home - that is, in the homes of low income earners, in migrant homes, in Aboriginal homes, in the homes of unskilled workers and in broken homes - and the lack of a proper cultural environment retards children from this background and perpetuates inequality. The only way to break this cycle is through the immediate introduction of pre-school education which the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) mentioned. I agree wholeheartedly with what he said on this subject. Those who are now deprived of pre-school education are those who are most in need of it.

I want briefly to quote from the platform of the 1971 Launceston conference of the Australian Labor Party the objective in education. It reads:

Education should promote love of freedom and justice and should develop critical perception, ability to choose intelligently, capacity for selfgovernment and a sense of social responsibility, lt should instil belief in the equal rights of all people and respect for their essential humanity, irrespective of nationality, colour or creed. It should ensure free and harmonious development of intellect, physique, emotions and abilities. It is the obligation of the State to provide a universal, free, compulsory, secular system of education open to all citizens.

I wanted to make a brief reference to the fact that in this year, the year designated by the United Nations to combat racism and racial discrimination, the Government has done virtually nothing through our school system to try to eliminate one of the great blights upon our society- - racism. I mean prejudice of all kinds - religious, national and racial prejudice. That opportunity has been missed this year, and in this of all years that is a disgrace.

In the time left to me, however, I wish to refer to the education system as it is working in Robertson, the electorate that I represent. I have in recent weeks undertaken a private survey, and I am proposing to continue this over the next months. I intend to visit and I have visited a number of schools, but unfortunately, owing to a mixup with the local inspector of schools, I have been unable to visit many of the State schools. However, next Tuesday, I will be visiting with him Chertsey School, Gosford Primary School, Gosford High School, Henry Kendall School and the Point Clare Primary School. Some 12 months ago I did a similar tour throughout the Ettalong-Woy Woy area, but I have done quite an extensive one in the time available. I have visited all the Catholic schools in the area. My survey was prompted by a visit to my office by a number of concerned members of parents and friends associations, so I took it upon myself to visit each and every school and spend some hours at every one. I visited St Josephs Girls High School, St Edwards Boys High School, St Patricks Mixed Primary School, Our Lady of the Rosary School, St Cecilia's School and St John the Baptist School.

Without being qualified to comment on the quality of education, I could readily ascertain some very serious physical deficiencies. 1 want to quote one small section from the nation-wide survey of educational needs. It states:

In most areas about 8 to 10 acres has been regarded as necessary for the larger State primaries, while for secondary schools IS to 20 acres has been accepted as a norm.

Let me compare the physical sizes of the Catholic schools in my electorate. Our Lady of the Rosary, St John the Baptist and St Patrick's all are located, I would think, in an area well under one acre of land, and they have pupils ranging from 150 to nearly 500 in the case of St Patrick's. St Joseph's Girls High School is located on less than an acre yet the survey of education needs suggests 15 to 20 acres. 1 think that class sizes are terribly important, because it has been accepted that in primary schools there should be no more than 35 to a class, in junior high school about 27, and in the senior 2 years 20 to 25.

Let me quote the figures for St Patrick's Primary School from kindergarten upwards. They are 33 and 34, 41 and 41, 45 and 45, 42 and 38, 39 and 45, and 42 in fifth class. It falls in fifth and sixth classes, but of course the boys go on to St Edward's High School. At St Cecilia's each teacher has 2 classes and the numbers are 40, 22, 41 and 36. At Our Lady of the Rosary School it is 35, 37, 42, 34, 32, 21 and 21. Listen to these class sizes at St John the Baptist School. What hope have these children of getting a proper start in school? The numbers are: Kindergarten 61, first class 52, second class 54 and third class 38. At the high schools, in respect of which it was said the norm should be 27, St Joseph's has an average of 36 and St Edward's 34.

There is a shortage of space for both future classrooms and recreational purposes. The development has proceeded in an ad hoc fashion, and future expansion will be extremely expensive owing to the high cost of land in the newly developing areas surrounding the schools. There are practically no assembly halls and there is no protection from wet weather. There are no specific art, crafts and music rooms, and in some cases there are no special library rooms although through the Commonwealth Government grant that is available a library will be going in at St Edward's shortly, and St Joseph's has quite a nice library.

There is a shortage of teachers, and I believe they are quite inadequately paid. The Catholic education on the central coast of New South Wales is approaching a crisis situation and will need very heavy support from both the State and Commonwealth Governments if it is to survive. I want finally to quote from the Australian Labor Party's platform under the heading Australian Schools Commission'. It states:

The Commonwealth to establish an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students In government and nongovernment primary, secondary and technical schools and recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the States to assist them meeting the requirements of all school-age children on the basis of needs and priorities.

I would like to have more time to stress this question of needs and priorities, because as someone who has had experience in the private school and State school system I am one who wants to see support for the Catholic school system.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Corbett) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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