Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 27 June 2001
Page: 28771

Ms ROXON (7:47 PM) —I want to continue tonight some comments that I commenced last Tuesday on a number of education issues in my electorate, when I had the opportunity to start discussing the increased pressures being put on a number of particularly low income families in my electorate as they find education expenses increasing. Unfortunately, in areas like my electorate, the reality is that some students and some families do face very real pressures from the costs of education, things that are seen as incidental by many other people. More families are coming under this pressure than we care to admit. Many of the schools in my electorate, in turn, can see these pressures being reflected and are having additional demands put on them and their staff. As I noted in the speech that I started last Tuesday, I undertook a direct democracy experiment, asking teachers and principals to write to me and tell me which education issues they would like me to discuss in the parliament. On this aspect, Joe Vella from Albion Primary School noted the `increasing role of schools dealing with welfare issues'. He commented that if `children are not receiving the necessary support, they will cause greater concerns in later years, thus becoming a greater burden on society and government resources'. This was all part of his claim for extra assistance, particularly welfare assistance, to be provided at primary school level. Similarly, Kevin Pope from the Sunshine North Primary School says his key issue is:

... reinvestment in primary school education: Early intervention programs work, but they require appropriate levels of resourcing. Why isn't the government committing to Primary Education in a way that ensures all our children and young people have the necessary skills to be successful citizens?

At senior levels, some schools are noticing the results of similar pressures and comment about vandalism and drug dealing at school. We cannot escape the reality that financial pressures do have educational consequences.

In addition, Louise Cleary from Marian College noted that although `the VCE studies do not suit all students, the costs of VET units are prohibitive for low income families'. This is something that people probably do not appreciate easily, but vocational training is often prohibitive not because of the direct educational costs at schools but because if you are undertaking part-time work as an apprentice, as is often involved with these VET programs, the costs of having tools, knives, uniforms or appropriate clothing are all costs that need to be met by the students or their families, and in low income families these costs can be prohibitive.

Unfortunately, we see neither the federal government allocating any funding to disadvantaged schools or to these families directly nor any assessment being made of the schools that might need extra welfare support and assistance. Unfortunately, we see the funding going to elite schools instead. I share the frustration of Christopher Stock, from St Paul's College in Altona, who is concerned about increased funding being allocated to what he calls `elite independent schools'. He points out:

The Catholic system should not be lumped in with these elite colleges, where legitimate criticism is made of the funds to very well researched elite colleges. We and other schools will also continue to be required to negotiate competing priorities and interests within the context of a society which is not ready to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to the education of its young people.

Many in the community do want education funding to be reprioritised. We must devise a formula that looks properly at need, that does not draw arbitrary distinctions and that takes account of the assets, wealth and capacity to fundraise that some schools have over others. Labor has committed to do that for the next quadrennium of funding to primary and secondary schools, which will not occur until 2005, with plenty of time for consultation before then on establishing a fair method.

I have organised a principals and school presidents forum on 30 July in my electorate where I want to get feedback and suggestions on the issues already identified and, more particularly, on ways that we can work together on regional education issues.

A region like the west of Melbourne needs to have its particular concerns addressed in a more focused way. This is part of our thinking behind Labor's proposed education priority zones, a topic that I hope we will have a chance to discuss also at this forum. Our aim is for the education priority zones to break the cycle of poverty and poor education. Education is too important for us to get wrong. It is the key to the future of the young people learning and studying in my electorate as we speak. Their schools deserve more from a federal government than they are getting at the moment, and I see it as a vital part of my job, and Labor's job, to get education funding in Australia back on track.