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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 1096


Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (10:01): I rise today to speak about the schools that came to visit us yesterday here in Parliament House. I had the great privilege to welcome and speak with students of the following primary schools: Elmore Primary School; Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Elmore; Goornong Primary School; Drummartin Primary School; and Raywood Primary School. These were the first schools for me to receive here in Parliament House. Whilst they are small schools in the electorate of Bendigo and are at the very north of the electorate they are not small schools when it comes to school spirit.

The visit by these schools and by their community really embody regional Australia. I had the opportunity before they came to Parliament House to visit these schools during my campaign, particularly Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Drummartin Primary School.

These schools try to do everything. They are a family and a community. Their community rallies around these small primary schools. They are meeting all of the challenges that all of our primary schools have. They have their fair share of students with special needs and their fair share of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. They have a larger than usual share in the electorate of families from farming communities. They also have long family connections to many of their primary schools. Their constant worry is: will their school be shut down?

When I meet with these schools they talk about funding. They raise the issue of ensuring that they get their fair share of resources, which is why Labor's Better Schools Plan was very much a key topic of discussion when I met with these schools in my electorate.

I would like to just highlight some of the questions that I asked of the students and their responses. When asked what they enjoyed about their visit to Parliament House, they said they enjoyed the role plays, and 'I got to meet our future Prime Minister and opposition leader.' Some also liked question time. However, some thought that the behaviour during question time was something to be questioned. When asked what message they would like me to pass on to the Prime Minister and other members of parliament, they very loudly and clearly said: 'Stop the bullying and be nice to each other.'

I spoke to the primary school students upstairs here in Parliament House. When I asked what message they would like to pass on to the government about schools and what they would like to see their representatives do, they said they would like better IT. For many of these smaller schools they have online virtual learning. In particular, they share the resources of a language teacher—Indonesian. Quite topical! Their access to broadband is continuing to be a challenge, so something like the National Broadband Network would help these schools.

They also said that they would like a vegie garden and the continuation of the Stephanie Alexander program. They wanted all schools to have access to that program—a successful program that teaches children from garden to kitchen. They said—and this did not come just from the teachers but also from the students—that they wanted increased funding so that they can have more books and more teachers. They—the primary school students—also said quite loudly and clearly that they support 'I give a Gonski'.

These children are right. Elmore was listed on the NBN rollout map earlier this year. The status is now unknown. For the vegie garden program and the Stephanie Alexander program, again the status is unknown. The status of the funding for Labor's Better Schools plan—where every child irrespective of where they live, which school they attend and their background would get the best possible education—is unknown.

The final question I asked the students was: who amongst them wanted to be the next member for Bendigo? Almost every hand went up. So, Deputy Speaker, I had better watch my back!