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Thursday, 21 June 2001
Page: 28408

Mr ZAHRA (12:43 PM) —I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate. When talking about education we often hear a lot about universities, TAFEs, schools and, increasingly, preschools. But one of the areas of the education system which we often neglect, or certainly do not talk anywhere near enough about, is adult and community education. In particular, I want to talk a little bit today about a quite remarkable adult community education provider which I have in my electoral district: Living and Learning Inc., in Pakenham. Living and Learning Inc. used to be the Pakenham neighbourhood house, which was created in 1989. In 1995 it changed its name to Living and Learning Inc. to reflect the direction that it saw itself heading in, and to reflect the scope that it wanted to offer in terms of the range of clauses and opportunities it wanted to provide for people who came through its door.

Pakenham is a pretty remarkable place. It is a place which is growing at a rate which is difficult to describe for people here. When I was a kid we would catch a train to Melbourne and the train would go through Pakenham. Mostly no-one would get on and mostly no-one would get off on the way back. Nowadays it has about 10,000 people and over the next seven or eight years it is probably going to grow to 20,000 people, so it is growing very rapidly and increasingly becoming part of the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. In that environment, the work which Living and Learning Inc. does is extremely important, because for those new people moving into the community it provides a point of contact. It is an easy way of accessing community services and an easy way of getting to know some people in that district, making new friends and getting plugged into all of those important community institutions which exist in Pakenham and district.

The client base of Living and Learning Inc. is made up of people from 27 different countries of birth other than Australia. It services people from 28 postcode areas. A significant number of people who access its services are male clients. I think it is extremely encouraging that a lot of men feel comfortable going into that place and accessing its services. As you would be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, a lot of blokes have traditionally not felt very comfortable going into neighbourhood houses and places which provide adult and community education. A high percentage of single-income families access the service as well. Living and Learning Inc. services the whole gamut of life in Pakenham and district, from children's services to services for the elderly. It is exactly the type of institution, exactly the type of organisation, that is flexible enough to deliver services to meet community needs. It is not bound to servicing only young people. It is not bound to servicing only older people. It services whatever the community needs. This is exactly the type of organisation which we need to have in places like Pakenham to meet the demands of those growing and changing communities. It is an important first port of call for people who move into the district—and people are moving into that district at a rate of knots.

Living and Learning Inc. in Pakenham can be best described by defining its approach as one of participation rather than exclusion. It wants to provide an opportunity for everyone in Pakenham and district to participate and get involved, irrespective of what walk of life they come from. Living and Learning Inc. has embraced lifelong learning—it does not just talk about it, it practises it in everything it does. We can be very proud indeed of the work of institutions like Living and Learning Inc. in Pakenham. Such institutions do not always get the kudos, praise and recognition that universities, TAFEs and, increasingly, secondary colleges get, but I think it is important, at least in this debate, for us to acknowledge their excellent work and for me as the local member to say how proud I am of their significant efforts.