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Wednesday, 13 September 1972
Page: 787


Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - I enter this debate briefly for 2 reasons. The first is because of personal connections that I have with various educational institutions that serve outback areas in their own way, particularly in my own State, but my main reason is because of my position as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts to which it is proposed to refer this matter of education for isolated school children. Anybody who has made any study of the 2 areas concerned will be aware of the problem that exists in places served by the Isolated Children's Parents Association. As was indicated earlier by my colleague Senator Jessop, I had the opportunity of meeting a delegation from the Association led by Mrs Edgley and Mr Wally Mitchell, both from Bourke in New South Wales. I took them to meet and talk with the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I know something of the response of the Minister and of his concern for the total field of education. This has been very adequately displayed by allocations in recent times of funds to the States for the development of education, and also in the current Budget.

Referring a subject of this nature to the Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts poses the rather difficult problem of when the matter will receive attention by the Committee. Assuming that the Senate carries the motion and the matter is referred to the Committee, it will be the Committee's job to make a decision as to when it can give the matter attention. At the moment the Committee is in the midst of a far-reaching inquiiry into all aspects of broadcasting and television. In reply to references which have been made earlier this evening 1 say that the Senate will understand that as the Committee is doing a complete and wide-ranging study of all aspects of broadcasting and television, educational television must loom large in the discussions. The Committee will make its decision in due course as to what kind of recommendation it makes in regard to the subject matter of the motion.

The important thing is for the Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts to recognise the urgency with which the arguments about the needs of members of the Isolated Children's Parents Association have been put forward tonight and for the Committee to have some understanding of their situation, to have more than sympathy for them, and to recommend to the Senate the steps that can be taken to meet their needs. Australia owes a great deal to those who over the years served and who today still serve Australia in distant places. The matters involved aTe more than matters of an educational nature. They impinge on the social and economic areas and on the areas of national development. Referring the matter to the Committee will provide the opportunity for all these areas to be examined thoroughly and totally and for an adequate dialogue to be established between the Parliament and the people concerned. Therefore I hope that the Senate will refer the matter to the Committee. As the Chairman of the Committee I will certainly give it as strong a commendation as I can.

The Minister for Education and Science has a deep and personal concern about the matter. He has talked with State Ministers about the educational problems of isolated children. His Department has had consultations with State officials. To say that the matter is constantly under review is not a sufficient answer. To refer it to a committee will provide an opportunity to establish a dialogue and an opportunity for the Committee to talk with the people who are involved not only in the sphere of education but in the total sphere of outback needs, the whole area of decentralisation and the social welfare of the people who serve Australia so well and so worthily in this sphere. In doing this they follow in the van of pioneers such as John Flynn, whose name has been mentioned. I very readily take the opportunity of mentioning his name. For a considerable number of years I have been a member of the Board of the Australian Inland Mission, which he founded. I know something of his work. I have visited and have been part of many of his hospitals and hostels in many parts of Australia. I know something of the work of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and its School of the Air.


Senator Cavanagh - He did not like blacks.


Senator DAVIDSON - As Senator Cavanagh has mentioned this, I invite him to inspect any of the hostels and hospitals that are serviced by the Mission. If he does I know what he will find. He will find a great percentage of Aboriginal people.


Senator Cavanagh - I am not talking about the missions. I am talking about Flynn.


Senator DAVIDSON - I am talking about Flynn and 1 am talking about the work that Flynn did. I am talking about the work that Flynn set up. I am talking about the Mission that Flynn established. I know what I am talking about because I have been associated with it for the greater part of my life. I will not stand here and hear this great Australian defamed in that way that he was when the honourable senator was hurling his comments across the chamber at me. Flynn led the vanguard in the care of isolated children. He stood up for isolated children long before the honourable senator thought of them. I will stand up for him. I shall see to it, when the matter is referred to the Committee, that we get the record straight. I return to the 4 points in which the Isolated

Children's Parents Association is particularly interested - the important matter of living away from home allowance, the correspondence supervision allowance, what Senator Lawrie referred to as the split home allowance, and government finance for the provision and maintenance of hostels. A number of areas could be discussed. All of them impinge on the total wellbeing of education. The important thing is that the matter will be referred, I hope, to the Committee. I shall prevail upon my colleagues on the Committee to give the matter the most urgent and sympathetic attention.







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