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Tuesday, 28 August 1973
Page: 506

Mr Bourchier asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:

(1)   What education facilities are available to Aboriginal students.

(2)   Is it compulsory for all Aboriginal children to register as students or is it only compulsory for adopted or urbanised Aboriginal children.

Mr Beazley - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The same educational facilities are available to these Australian students as are available to all other Australian students. There are no restrictions imposed because of Aboriginality; on the contrary, special efforts are made to adapt the curriculum of schools and pre-schools in distinctive Aboriginal communities to the needs and the background of the children living in these communities and special efforts are made to encourage Aboriginal children throughout Australia to continue through secondary school and to go on to tertiary education.

An example of adaptation of the curriculum is the bilingual education program introduced this year in certain schools in the Northern Territory. A similar program is in operation in South Australia and interest is being shown elsewhere. Extensive development of special pre-schooling facilities for Aboriginal children throughout Australia has been supported financially and otherwise by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Since the 1967 Referendum that Department has made grants to the States for special Aboriginal education projects ranging from pre-schooling to adult education totalling $6,798,000. Students are encouraged and assisted to persevere in their education by the Aboriginal Secondary Grants Scheme and the Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme, administered by my Department, which offer financial assistance on a non-competitive basis to all students of Aboriginal descent in secondary and tertiary courses.

(2)   In all States, education is compulsory for children between certain ages whether they are Aboriginal or not, and the conditions for exemptions granted on such grounds as remoteness or physical or mental disability also apply to all children. The specific information on this matter, as provided by State education authorities, is as follows:

New South Wales: Under the Public Instruction (Amendment) Act schooling is compulsory for all children, including all Aboriginal children, in New South Wales between the ages 6-15.

Victoria: School is compulsory for Aboriginal children as it is for all children.

Queensland: The provisions of the Education Act in Queensland apply to all Aboriginal children as well as white children. Schooling is therefore compulsory for them within the Act (i.e* with considerations for remoteness and physical or mental disability).

South Australia: All children are under compulsion in this State. Modifications to this occur in cases of truancy and long absenteeism. These cases are considered on merits, bearing in mind the circumstances in which the child lives, especially with regard to Aboriginals living in tribal areas.

Western Australia: No distinction is made between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal school pupils in Western Australia for purposes of enrolment.

Thus all Aboriginal children who are six years of age or more, and less than school leaving age, are required to attend school. Such requirements are subject only to Education Department Regulations regarding distance of child's home from school.

Tasmania: No distinction is made between children of Aboriginal descent and other children. Education is compulsory for all children from 6 to 16 with provision for exemption at an age earlier than 16 in certain circumstances common to all students.

In the Australian Capital Territory, as the law stands at the moment, the position is the same as in New South Wales.

The present legal position in the Northern Territory is that no children are under compulsion to attend school. My Department is reviewing the existing legislation governing the education of children in the Northern Territory

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