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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 155


Mr BRUCE SCOTT (11:38 AM) —I am very pleased to follow the very distinguished Chief Opposition Whip. His services to the defence subcommittee are very much missed since he has been elevated to higher positions within the opposition benches. I rise in this adjournment debate to talk about the great success of a great organisation which has been visiting Canberra this week—I am sure they have been to see you, Mr Deputy Speaker: the Isolated Children’s Parents Association. This is one of the great organisations, which has a single issue that they pursue with vigour and with great credibility. The ICPA, as we know them, had a very humble beginning. In western New South Wales in 1971, during the dreadful drought at that time, they were seeking support at federal and state level to ensure that those children who were geographically isolated from access to education could be assisted in gaining basic access to education. It is a great volunteer organisation. Since that time, they have continued that cause and I commend their work. I congratulate that great volunteer brigade of people, who come down here once or twice a year with their wish list, you might say.

My wife and family have been beneficiaries of the work of the Isolated Children’s Parents Association; in fact, we have been members of that association, and my children have enjoyed the benefits that have flowed from federal governments of both political persuasions. In fact, the original Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme was agreed to in 1971 by Kim Beazley senior, who was the minister for education at that time. He introduced the scheme, and it has prevailed over many years.

The program assists the children not just of people on the land but of people in country towns who cannot gain access to basic education, and in some cases to secondary-level education, without having to leave home. There are many communities in remote Australia that fall into that category. Whether they are council workers or professional people, whether they are doctors or policemen, they all provide vital services for those communities and they, too, benefit from the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme and the great work of ICPA.

It is interesting to note that, during the great drought of 1994-96, for children living on remote pastoral properties across Australia, 50 per cent of education services were being delivered by teachers who were actually governesses. The most recent statistic in this current drought indicates that 93 per cent of teachers are the mothers of those children. It demonstrates that those parents cannot afford a governess; they have to do it themselves. So a home tutors allowance will certainly help the family and ensure that the children are given the best opportunity for their basic primary and secondary education.

There is another challenge in front of us as a government as we go forward this year—that is, the issue of access to post-secondary education. There are still so many children going through primary and secondary education—maybe they have been assisted through the AIC program—who live in these country towns and who have to leave town to gain access to a university, a TAFE college or a technical college for further education. I support the objectives of ICPA regarding the establishment of a post-secondary or tertiary access allowance that is not means tested or assets tested. It would be on the same basis as the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme, which was introduced by Kim Beazley senior many years ago. That should flow through to post-secondary education in order to help those students go on to further education post their secondary education. But we need to give them that basic assistance so that they can gain access to that further training. If we are to upskill our nation, we have to make sure that these institutions are accessible not just by those who live near them but by those who are geographically isolated.