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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6299

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (19:19): I would like to thank the member for Reid for that question and I am very pleased to be able to provide him with an update. I must say that I very much enjoyed the opportunity to visit the Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College trade training centre with the member on 4 November. We were able to see the extensive facilities that were being put in place to help these kids realise their dreams of working in vocations that they had a great desire for and a great interest in. That facility was particularly interesting to me because it was one where the Catholic system had also provided a significant contribution so that they could maximise the benefit of the investment that the Commonwealth had provided through the trade training centre program itself. They had looked at a suite of training potentials for their students and they had delivered not only a hospitality area but also a tremendous performing arts space. I was particularly impressed with the way in which they had worked closely with other fellow schools in their system. The Southern Cross trade training centre will provide a tremendous opportunity for kids who decide that they do want to go into higher education or who are not necessarily going straight into the workforce. They will be able to go into areas of skills and trades which will then allow them to go on and build sustainable working lives for themselves once they leave school. That is really important.

Members listening would know that there is an issue about apprenticeship completion. We do have a lot of young Australians who decide to go down a particular skills route. They might do a couple of certs; they might get halfway through the apprenticeship and then we may not see successful completion. The government addressed that in the budget, which had a very strong skills focus, by providing some $200 million—I think $101 million for the mentoring package for apprentices and another $100 million for the accelerated package. That is a way of really focusing on this particular issue. We do know that a better skilled Australian workforce provides us with enduring foundations for long-term sustainability; but it is also important for young people coming into the workforce who perhaps encounter issues or obstacles that they did not quite realise were there. To have mentoring in that situation would be terrifically useful.

The fact is that the facilities at Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College in the electorate of the member Reid are amongst the best I have seen in Australia. But all of the trade training centre facilities that I have seen thus far have been of a very high order. It does mean that the training that takes place in the school environment is training which can be immediately applied and used as people go on to their vocational training journey.

Just quickly also to pick up on the member's question to me, I was extremely pleased that we were able to see over half a billion dollars worth of initiatives in this budget. In particular there was $200 million of new funding for support for students with disabilities and special needs. Everybody listening to the broadcast of parliament and everybody reading the record of this debate will know that one of the greatest needs in our school system at this point in time is that felt by the school community wanting to be able to provide the necessary support in the classroom for kids with special needs and disabilities. I think that $200 million was one of the great moments of the education budget in 2011. It has been extremely positively received right across the education sectors from all of those who work in this area and who realise how important it is.

Some $425 million was committed to national awards for great teachers. We know that the teacher is the most important person inside the school gate when it comes to providing an effective education for kids. They are the single most important figure there. To develop a nationally consistent performance management system and recognise effective teachers I think is an absolute boon to the profession and it shows that we understand how important providing a great education is. There were many measures in this budget which showed our commitment to providing a great education, and we are proud of all of them. (Time expired)