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Thursday, 16 December 1993
Page: 4316

Mr DODD (11.31 p.m.) —On 30 November I had the pleasure of representing the Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training (Mr Free) at the official opening of the new facilities at the Wangetti Education Centre in my electorate. The Wangetti Education Centre is a school for years 11 and 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and is located approximately halfway between Cairns and Port Douglas. On the same night the school held its annual award presentation night.

  Wangetti school takes students from remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in my electorate and the electorates of Kennedy and the Northern Territory. Students attend Wangetti from Torres Strait Island communities, in particular Badu Island and Mabuiag Island, as well as the Northern Territory, Mount Isa and Cairns.

  I would like to thank the principal of the school, Mr Les Hegerty, his dedicated staff and the students of the Wangetti Education Centre for the hospitality shown to me on the night. I had the pleasure of representing the minister in opening the new facilities, which included classrooms, an administration area and a new library. These were built with a Commonwealth grant of $290,000.

  I was most impressed with the quality of the traditional indigenous entertainment on the night: dancing from Torres Strait Islanders, as well as traditional dancing from the Northern Territory. Academic achievements were also demonstrated at the award presentation. Also highlighted were the sporting achievements of the school.

  I was advised that two of the Wangetti students last year gained admission to a tertiary institution. This year another student has already gained a similar admission. That may not seem very remarkable to honourable members, but it must be noted that English is often a second or even a third language to the students at the Wangetti school. They all come from remote communities and suffer from all the disadvantages, which are well documented, suffered by Australia's indigenous people.

  Many of the students, parents, guardians and families attended the night's ceremonies. This is both remarkable and commendable, given the huge distances some people had to travel. I again take the opportunity to congratulate the courage, determination and, importantly, the fantastic optimism that was shown to me on the night by the students of Wangetti. I wish them well in their adult life.

  In the short time that I have left, I wish Mr John May of the House of Representatives transport office well in his retirement. I thank all the parliamentary staff and the Comcar drivers for the assistance and courtesy they have shown to me as a new member in this House. I would like to wish you, Mr Speaker, and all those who work in this building a merry Christmas and a happy new year.