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Education cuts hit Indigenous kids and parents.



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The Hon Warren Snowdon MP Labor Member for Lingiari Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Reconciliation

Contacts: Warren Snowdon — 0419 626 601 Markus Mannheim — 0418 846 596

Wednesday, 2 June 2004

Education cuts hit Indigenous kids and parents

The federal government must not proceed with proposed changes to the Indigenous Education Direct Assistance Program which could block access to education programs for Indigenous children and their parents, Warren Snowdon said today.

The member for Lingiari said the closure of the Aboriginal Tutorial Assistance Scheme and new funding restrictions on the Aboriginal Student Support and Parent Awareness program — both part of IEDA — could seriously impact on the Indigenous schoolchildren’s attendance and results.

“This government is making it harder for Indigenous students to excel and harder for parents to be involved in their children’s school,” Mr Snowdon said.

“It’s incredible that this is happening at the same time the government is blaming Indigenous representatives for poverty.

“There is no more obvious path out of poverty than education.

“Yet incredibly, this government is busy building barriers instead of paving the path.

“Only 10 of the 3,900 ASSPA committees across the country — just 0.25 per cent — made a submission to the government about the impact of these changes.

“Most Indigenous communities don’t have a clue what’s about to happen.”

Thousands of Indigenous parents across the Northern Territory are involved in their children’s schools through ASSPA committees, which are provided with funds to help make school classes more relevant for Indigenous children.

But in this year’s Budget the federal government introduced changes that will require these parents — who often don’t speak English — to write a special funding submission each time they need a payment for a school project.

The government has also scrapped ATAS, which provides after-hours tutorial assistance to disadvantaged Indigenous children, with a scheme that will only assist students in years 3, 5 and 7 who fail literacy and numeracy benchmarks.

Mr Snowdon said disadvantaged students needed help throughout their schooling lives, not just in these years.

“Why is the government only interested in assisting students who have already fallen through the cracks?” Mr Snowdon said.

“Why not start at the beginning and give the best opportunities to all the children who face disadvantage?

“These changes show contempt for Indigenous communities, parents and their schools and must not be allowed to proceed.”

Ends.

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