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Tuesday, 27 February 2001
Page: 24563

Ms HALL (10:30 PM) —I rise to speak tonight about Public Education Day, on 15 March, when public schools and colleges will be celebrating and sharing with their local communities the excellent work and achievements of the students and teachers in our great public education system. It will be a day when the community learns about what is happening in their local public schools and colleges and the challenges being faced on a daily basis by both students and teachers. Public Education Day is supported by peak parent bodies, principal organisations and the Teachers Federation. It is a unique opportunity to learn about our great public education system and to say thankyou to the school communities in our local areas.

On 15 March, public schools and colleges will be involved in a number of activities. Morning teas will be held with the parents and citizen organisations and students in the local schools to tell the community about the great things that are happening in their schools. Barbecue lunches will be held for community members and new parents. A number of theme days such as grandparents day and generation day will be held, inviting parents and prominent ex-pupils to the schools and out into the community. There will also be performing arts groups and fitness displays. The purpose of these activities is to tell the community about what is happening in their community. The member for Braddon has told me that he also will be involved in his local area. It is a great idea, and I will be joining with the teachers, students and parents from one of my local high schools—Belmont High School, the school my children went to—and I can attest to the high standard of education, the dedication of the teachers and the supportiveness of the school community.

Why have our public schools and colleges declared 15 March Public Education Day? One reason is of course to tell people about what is happening in our schools and to share their achievements with the community. But I also believe that the public education institutions in our communities are under threat from this government. This government has directed money towards private schools and private colleges and has reinforced the private system at the expense of the public system. For instance, the enrolment benchmark has devastated public schools. We have 70 per cent of students attending public schools and 30 per cent of students attending private schools, yet this government delivered a bonanza to the 61 richest schools in this country—the category 1 schools. What have they done since they received this bonanza? They have hiked up the fees. They have put the fees up in their schools. This government is working towards a two-tiered education system, just the way it has worked towards a two-tiered public health system. Its approach to education is that, if you have money, you pay for it and you deserve to get a quality education. For the normal, ordinary, average Australian who relies on the public system, this government is punishing those students in the public system. So the teachers, the school communities and students feel that they need to get their message out into the community, to share with the community the wonderful things that they are doing and to ask for the support of the community.

Whenever I visit one of our outstanding public schools or colleges, I am overwhelmed by the achievements of the teachers, students, parents and other volunteers. The commitment of our teachers to our children—the students—is wonderful. The tragedy is that this great public education system is under threat from this mean, miserable government. I call on all members to contact their local public schools and colleges on 15 March and show their support for the achievements of these fine and outstanding institutions. Join with them, support the community, support the students and support the teachers.