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Transcript of press conference: 20 November 2008: opening of E-learning and Research Building at the Batchelor Institute; xollapse of CFK Childcare Centres; ABC Learning.

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z Julia Gillard

z Brendan O'Connor

z Kate Ellis

z Maxine McKew

z Ursula Stephens

The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for Social Inclusion. Deputy Prime Minister 20 November, 2008


Press Conference, Northern Territory, 12pm Wednesday November 2008

Opening of E-learning and Research Building at the Batchelor Institute, Collapse of CFK Childcare Centres, ABC Learning

JULIA GILLARD: Well, can I say it’s great to be here at the Batchelor Institute. I’m joined by the Northern

Territory Minister for Education and also by my parliamentary colleagues, Damian Hale, the Member for

Soloman and Trish Crossin, a Senator for the Northern Territory.

We’re here today to open and to celebrate the opening this new e-learning facility and research facility. It was

made possible by almost $3 million of Federal Government funding. It is here to support the Batchelor

Institute, which does such special work in Indigenous education. This new e-learning and research facility will

enable students and staff at this Institute to stay connected with students who are learning in communities

beyond the Batchelor Institute right across the Northern Territory, and for them to stay connected with their

peers in other institutions right around Australia and, indeed, right around the world.

The Rudd Labor Government is committed to closing the gap for Indigenous Australians. We want to make

sure Indigenous Australians get a fair chance at education and at employment opportunities. The Batchelor

Institute is playing a key role in helping close that gap and this new facility will support its work.

JOURNALIST: Would you expect the current economic climate to impact on the Government’s ability to

spend the funding that’s necessary to close the gap in all of those various areas?

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JULIA GILARD: The Government is committed to closing the gap. We have made resources available already

and we will continue to invest. The Prime Minister, when he said sorry to the generations of Indigenous

Australians who had been stolen from their families, committed this nation to closing the gap. He said then

that this was going to take time, that the gaps in life expectancy and in educational attainment between

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are large, way too large. When we come to life expectancy—a

tragic 17 years difference. So we accept its going to take time. It’s going to take investment. It’s going to take

goodwill and the Rudd Labor Government is committed to closing that gap.

I should say, apart from this investment in the Batchelor Institute, we’ve also made another recent investment

of $350 000 through our Better Universities Renewal Fund and that money, too, has been used for new

technology which is so vital to learning and particularly staying connected with people in communities across

the Northern Territory.

JOURNALIST: Minister, there seems to be enormous changes going on in Indigenous policy, particularly

related to education that are going on virtually … not so much in the public … the four hours English in

schools a day was announced without any consultation. There’s a lot of concern and anxiety in the bush about

that. Are you able to reassure people in the bush that, for instance, homeland schools won’t be left high and


MARION SCRYMGOUR: Can I say that, in terms of the four hours English, there has been a lot of consultation. Because the debate, there is a lot of emotion with this debate. You’ve got two sides to the debate

and certainly a decision needed to be taken in terms of closing the gap on educational disadvantage that’s out

there. Every Aboriginal child in all of those communities are entitled to a good education system and this is

what we are doing. In terms of homelands, that is the same thing. I have had discussions with (inaudible)

homelands, Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporations—so a lot of the peak organisations with their members to

discuss this change in education.

So in terms of no consultation—that is not true. There has been a lot of consultation with a lot of those

communities to talk to them, to talk to people on the ground in those communities. And, as I said, there are

two sides to the debate. It is a passionate and emotive area. But at some stage Government has to bite the

bullet. We have to draw the line in the sand and say that we have to get our Aboriginal kids in those remotes

communities a good education.

JOURNALIST: Does that mean going into bigger centres to go to school?

MARION SCRYMGOUR: Not at all. Look, I think … and if I look at Maningrida and what we need to do and

it’s not just about the four hours English, it’s about adjusting and reducing those class sizes. It’s about getting

more teachers into those remote communities. It’s about skilling our Aboriginal workforce. So there’s a whole

lot of … and different, I suppose, initiatives under transforming Indigenous education which no one is looking

at to try and deal with the one big issue that we have in those remote communities and that is to get kids to


And as I’ve said, regardless of whether it’s bilingual or English, children have to go to school everyday. So

there’s a number of different initiatives that are there about transforming Indigenous Education. The four

hours English program is only one component of that. And I think everyone has gone off on one direction,

looked at that, without looking at all of the other things that we’ll be putting in place to make sure that

children … we maintain language, but children get access to a good education system

JOURNALIST: Will that include making sure there’s a qualified teacher in every homeland school?

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MARION SCRYMGOUR: Oh, there has to be. One of the things that I … and the discussions I’ve had with a lot

of the homelands is looking at the delivery of education into a lot of those homeland centres which hasn’t

happened before. And whether that service is that you look at virtual schooling, which is one area that has

been looked at by the Northern Territory Department of Education, because the reality is we’re not going to

put a maths teacher in every homeland centre. So how do you get those children access to a skilled or

specialised maths teacher? So virtual schooling … public transportation—that needs to be looked in terms of

bringing children to the main hub community. But nothing is set in concrete at the moment. We are having

the discussions. We are looking at what are the resources that are required to make that change.

JOURNALIST: As the Federal Education Minister, do you support the territory government’s moves away

from bilingual education?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, can I say I think the Minister’s just explained the policy of the Northern Territory

Government. And can I say this: for Indigenous Australians, English is the language of further learning and

English is the language of work. And if we want Indigenous kids who are growing up today right across the

Northern Territory , right across the nation, to have a chance to come to an institution like this one and do an

undergraduate degree, do a postgraduate degree, go out and get a good job, then people need to read and write

English. They need to do that fluently, proficiently. They need to be able to do it at the level that further

education requires and at the level that work requires.

Now, of course, people can be bilingual and we want to ensure that Indigenous Australians have the ability to

learn their own language, their original language as well. But for Indigenous Australians, to close those gaps—

we’re talking about particularly in terms of educational opportunity and employment opportunity—English is

the language of further study; it’s the language of work. We want Indigenous kids coming out of school able to

read and write proficiently in English, ready to access those further opportunities.

JOURNALIST: Just on another subject, what is your response to CFK going into administration? What are the

implications of this now?

JULIA GILLARD: I can understand that mums and dads across NSW are anxious hearing this news that CFK,

a child care provider with some 43 child care centres announced yesterday that it’s going to voluntary

administration. We understand mums and dads would be anxious wondering what’s going to happen with

their CFK child care centre. Can I say to those anxious mums and dads two things: firstly, my department is in

urgent discussions with the administrator so we can get the full information here for people. Secondly, no

child care centre in this country can close without giving 30 days notice. So people should not be immediately

concerned that their child care centre isn’t going to be available for them to drop their kids off tomorrow or

next week.

We will be working with the administrator at CFK and we will be doing everything we can to make sure mums

and dads get accurate and up-to-date information. That information will be available through our dedicated

child care hotline—it’s number is 180 2003—and through our website.

JOURNALIST: Does that include a further financial show of assistance?

JULIA GILLARD: We made available to the receiver of ABC Learning up to $22 million to ensure that ABC

Learning Centres stayed open ‘til 31 December this year and we had an opportunity to get full information to

people about what would happen in 2009. ABC Learning was obviously in a unique position. It was the biggest

child care provider in this country providing care to more than 100 000 children. We are going to be working

with the administrator of CFK. We will be doing that urgently. This matter is now less than 24 hours old. It’s

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less than 24 hours ago that CFK announced it was going into administration. We’ve got to get the information

and work with the administrator. But I can say to mums and dads that child care centres in this country can’t

close without giving 30 days notice.

JOURNALIST: You’re not ruling out further funding?

JULIA GILLARD: We need to work with administrator here. This is a new situation. One we need to get to the

bottom of and we will be doing that.

JOURNALIST: Is this the beginning of a domino effect for child care centres?

JULIA GILLARD: Can I say there are child care centres around this country—some of them run by people who

seek to make a profit, some of them run by community organisations that are not-for-profit organisations.

They are run day in, day out. They are stable. They are financially viable and they are going to be there for the

long term. So it is clearly possible in this country to run child care centres so they are stable and financially

viable. What we’ve seen with ABC Learning is a big corporate player, obviously with large levels of debt that

had engaged in ventures overseas, obviously getting into problems and now a receiver is in control of that

business. We know that there appears to be some connection between CFK and ABC Learning. CFK said

publicly part of its problems stemmed from its inability to complete a sale transaction with ABC Learning

because ABC Learning went into receivership. So there are issues there with ABC Learning and with CFK that

we are working through but I don’t want to spread anxiety unnecessarily. Mums and dads around this country

use their child care centre, they rely on it, and child care centres around this country provide care and are

perfectly stable and financially viable.

JOURNALIST: So are you going to make the same promise to CFK parents the same Christmas promise that

you have to ABC parents?

JULIA GILLARD: Well we are in the early days, indeed, the early hours of this question with CFK. The first

thing that is going to happen is my department, through its dedicated Child Care Taskforce, will be working

with the administrator of CFK to get to the bottom of what is going on here. CFK itself in its statement said it

wanted it see continuation of its centres and there will be care available for people because child care centres

cannot close without giving 30 days notice. As soon as we have more information, we’ll make it available for

parents through out dedicated information hotline and the pages of the website.

JOURNALIST: Is the standard of Aboriginal teachers in Aboriginal communities the problem that Chris Sarra

says it is?

JULIA GILLARD: Look, I’ll take this as the last question Marion may want to say something. But can I say I

think it’s incumbent on all of us to make sure we’ve got the best of teaching available for Indigenous students.

Obviously there are huge workforce issues and pressures, huge shortages, rapid turnover. That is something

that the Northern Territory Government has raised with us and what we’re going to be working on. Thank you.


Media Contact:

Deputy Prime Minister's Press Office: 02 6277 7758

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