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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2613

Senator MACKLIN —My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. Given the rejection by nurses throughout Australia of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission's recommendations on nursing education, their anger at the delay in the transfer of nursing education to tertiary institutions and the educational and economic arguments for the transfer of that nursing education, what is the Government prepared to do in terms of the promises it made at the last election? When might it be seen to be doing something on this?

Senator RYAN —The Government is very well aware of the responses of nurses and organisations representing nurses to the recommendations in the Tertiary Education Commission report and we have already taken a number of steps to have further discussions with nurses with a view to planning a desirable, feasible and effective method of transferring nurse training from hospitals to colleges. There have been a number of meetings, not the least of which was a meeting today that Dr Blewett and I attended that went for over two hours. Several members of the Government and most unions and associations which have nurse members were present. We had extremely fruitful and constructive discussions.

The delegations were informed of the Government's decision to set up an interdepartmental committee to look very urgently at the question and to examine all the factors involved. I think all the delegates at the meeting this morning, and on other occasions, recognise that many issues are involved. There are the desires and aspirations of nurses to move to college of advanced education training, and that is an aspiration we share with them. There are industrial relations issues which will arise out of such a transfer. Views are held by some unions which have nurse members to the effect that they want to continue the option of hospital based nurse training for those who choose it. The Commonwealth and the States have to discuss the issue of the very high transfer cost of taking the trainees out of hospitals and putting them into CAEs. There is the question of the accreditation of nurse training courses for the purpose of the tertiary education assistance scheme and there is the question of who will meet the cost of the workers who will need to be employed in hospitals to do the work previously done by trainee nurses. None of these issues can be resolved hastily or without proper planning.

One other issue discussed at some length today-I know Senator Macklin will be interested in this-concerned the curriculum to be provided for undergraduate nurse trainees in colleges. We regard it as being of the utmost importance that a sound curriculum be devised so that the aspirations of nurses for a higher status training can be realised. Of course this would not happen if there were a hastily devised curriculum for undergraduate nurse students.

These matters are all being addressed by the IDC, taking account of the input from all organisations which have nurses as members. I hope we will have results from this IDC in time to incorporate them in our Budget decisions.